Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire book tickets to Brazil 2014 with playoff victories

AP

Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire have qualified for the World Cup.

The Nigerians became the first African team to qualify for next year’s showcase, beating Ethiopia 2-0 in the second leg of their playoff Saturday. Nigeria, playing at home in Calabar, won 4-1 on total goals.

Cote d’Ivoire played to a tense 1-1 draw with Senegal for a 4-2 total-goals victory in neutral Casablanca, Morocco. Cote d’Ivoire won the first leg 3-1. It made its World Cup debut in 2006 and will be going to the tournament for the third straight time.

Five teams will represent Africa in Brazil, with three remaining playoffs.

Cameroon and Tunisia were even after a 0-0 draw in Tunisia, while Burkina Faso led Algeria 3-2 entering second-leg games Sunday. Burkina Faso has never been to the World Cup.

Egypt hosts Ghana on Tuesday and needs a major upset to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1990. Ghana won the first leg 6-1.

If Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana qualify, Africa will be represented by the same five teams that made it to South Africa’s World Cup.

In Nigeria, Victor Moses made a 20th-minute penalty kick after an Ethiopian hand ball. Victor Obinna scored in the 82nd minute to send the African champion to Brazil. Nigeria has qualified for five of the last six World Cups.

“President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan heartily congratulates the Super Eagles of Nigeria,” a statement from the Nigerian leader’s office said.

Ethiopia had been trying to reach its first World Cup after emerging as the surprise team of the African qualifying campaign.

In Morocco, Salomon Kalou of Cote d’Ivoire struck in the fourth minute of injury time to make sure Africa’s top-ranked team advanced. With Senegal surging forward, Yaya Toure set up Kalou for the clinching goal.

Moussa Sow of Senegal scored on a penalty kick in the 77th minute. Cote d’Ivoire star Didier Drogba gave away the penalty that put Senegal on the verge of a major upset.

The game was played in Casablanca because of a stadium ban on Senegal after a riot in an African Cup qualifier between the teams last year.

It was also the first game for Senegal since the death of Bruno Metsu, the French coach who led the Senegalese to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup. That was the nation’s first and only appearance at the tournament.

Spain edges E. Guinea

Malabo Equatorial Guinea AP

Spain won 2-1 at former colony Equatorial Guinea on Saturday amid criticism of the appropriateness of the world champions playing a friendly in a country dogged by accusations of human rights abuses under its current president.

Human rights groups had urged Spain to call attention to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s record of alleged human rights violations. The game, however, was played without any protest.

Santi Cazorla opened for Spain in the 13th minute before Jimmy Bermudez pulled 119th-ranked Equatorial Guinea level in the 36th. Juanfran Torres slotted the winner in the 42nd.

Midfielder Xabi Alonso was forced to leave the pitch in the first half in his first game back for Spain this season.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said, however, that Alonso’s injury didn’t appear serious, describing it only as “a knock.”

“It was an uncomfortable match for us and they played very physically,” said Del Bosque. “They didn’t let us play our game. They came at us. Our players drew back somewhat and at times weren’t focused.”

Spain became the first team from outside Africa to play in Malabo since Obiang took power in a coup in 1979 after the small African country gained independence from Spain in 1968.

Barcelona defender Marc Bartra started in his international debut for Spain.

Alonso made his return since missing last summer’s Confederations Cup due to injury, but he had to be substituted after being fouled by Thierry Fidjeu. Real Madrid lost Alonso’s midfield partner, Sami Khedira, for six months after he tore a right knee ligament playing for Germany on Friday.

Spain dominated early and went ahead when Cazorla tapped in a cross goalkeeper Danilo Clementino let slip through his hands and fall to the midfielder in front of the open net.

Equatorial Guinea gave Spain’s untested pair of center-backs Bartra and Inigo Martinez work as it sought to equalize through Ivan Bolado and Javier Balboa.