World Cup round-up: Martins revives listless Nigeria in nick of time

Africa, host of the World Cup finals, provided a final flourish of breathtaking excitement as the continent's qualifying campaign drew to a close. Virtually simultaneous late goals in Nairobi and Maputo resulted in Nigeria booking a ticket to South Africa against the odds and Egypt sweated until the final moments of added time in Cairo to score the goal that kept their challenge alive.

Obafemi Martins was the hero for Nigeria, who had struggled to make an impact on the competition. They had to win in Kenya in their final game and hope that the group leaders, Tunisia, lost in Mozambique.

With seven minutes to play in Nairobi, Martins, once of Newcastle, hooked in the winner, his second goal of the match, to earn the Super Eagles a 3-2 victory, and at almost the same moment in Maputo, Tunisia, who had adopted a cautious approach because they needed only a draw to qualify, conceded a goal by the veteran Dario and slipped to a 1-0 defeat.

Kenya led at half-time but Martins, who now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany, equal-ised soon after the restart and Everton's Aiyegbeni Yakubu then put Nigeria ahead. Allen Wetende's equaliser for Kenya within five minutes looked to have ended Nigeria's hopes until Martins spun to hook home a cross. Nigeria had done their bit, but then the decisive news came through from Maputo to spark celebrations.

The outpourings of joy in Cairo would at least have matched those scenes, even if Egypt's campaign may yet end in failure. For the moment they have deprived Algeria of a place in the finals, thanks to Emad Meteab's looping header five minutes into added time.

Amr Zaki, familiar to fans of Wigan, had given Egypt the perfect start by scoring after only two minutes as his side went in pursuit of the 2-0 victory they needed to finish exactly level with Algeria and force a play-off in Sudan on Wednesday.

Cameroon reached their sixth finals, a record for an African nation, when they beat Morocco 2-0 in Fes. Like Nigeria, Cameroon had struggled to secure their place, but they did not leave it quite so late, winning their last four qualifiers.

New Zealand, led by Blackburn centre-half Ryan Nelsen, also qualified – for the second time – thanks to a goal from Plymouth Argyle's Rory Fallon and a penalty save by goalkeeper Mark Paston as they won their play-off against Bahrain 1-0 after a goalless first leg.

Russia took a tentative step closer to the finals when Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Slovenia in the first leg of their play-off in Moscow. The Everton winger scored either side of half-time, assisted first by Spurs' Roman Pavlyuchenko and then Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin. However, Slovenia ensured the return leg in Maribor on Wednesday would be no picnic when Nejc Pecnik pulled a goal back two minutes from time.

Ukraine look favourites to qualify from their play-off with Greece after a 0-0 draw in Athens, while Portugal, without Cristiano Ronaldo, gained only a 1-0 edge over Bosnia in Lisbon, Bruno Alves scoring and Bosnia hitting the woodwork three times – twice in the last minute. Both the return matches are on Wednesday.

In friendly games, Northern Ireland lost 1-0 to Serbia despite having chances to take the lead, PSV's Danko Lazovic settling the issue in the 57th minute. The Irish lost Manchester United defender Jonny Evans to a calf injury, while Arsenal will be anxious for news of Robin van Persie, who was carried off after 16 minutes of Holland's dreary 0-0 draw against Italy in Pescara.

England Under-21s improved their chances of reaching the European Championship in Denmark in 2011 when a single goal by Spurs' Danny Rose proved enough to beat Portugal 1-0 at Wembley.

David Beckham made missing the game against Brazil worthwhile when he earned the chance to win his first Major League Soccer title as his Galaxy side overcame Houston Dynamo 2-0 after extra time – and two floodlight failures – to reach the MLS Cup final. The England midfielder set up the opening goal with a free-kick.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen