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.

News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003