While club football went to bed for a weekend, the fight for a ticket to the biggest football party – the 2022 FIFA World Cup, took over as teams across all the continents and confederations duked it out in the World Cup Qualifiers. Sadly for some, it was the end of the road. For others, a chance for redemption in a playoff.
Here are the most talked-about moments from the African, European, and South American qualifiers.
Ghana 1-0 South Africa
Ghana overcame South Africa 1-0 in Cape Coast to go to the African World Cup play-offs, leapfrogging their opponents at the top of Group G. The only goal of the game came after 33 minutes, from Andre Ayew, a cornerstone of Ghana’s World Cup performances. A goal that turned game-winner as Bafana Bafana suffered their first loss in the group at the worst possible time was a penalty call they would want to debate after Ghana’s Daniel Amartey fell in the box following the most minor of touches.
Nigeria 1-1 Cape Verde
Nigeria earned a spot for the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualification play-off but had to earn it after holding Cape Verde Islands off to a nervy 1-1 draw for more than 85 minutes on Tuesday. Victor Osimhen’s opening goal and the eventual draw at home were enough to see Nigeria qualify as the top team in Group C with 13 points after six games.
Algeria 2-2 Burkina Faso
Just like Nigeria, African champions Algeria needed to avoid defeat while playing second-placed Burkina Faso in their last group A game at home. Under pressure to qualify from the group, the North Africans lost their lead twice after goals from Riyad Mahrez and Sofiane Feghouli had put them ahead on different occasions. But they held onto the 2-2 scoreline at full-time to share the spoils and make it to the next phase.
Cameroon 1-0 Côte d’Ivoire
Five-time African champions Cameroon dumped Ivory Coast out of World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday as Olympique Lyonnais forward Karl Toko Ekambi’s 21st-minute goal separated the African giants in the Group D blockbuster. The slender 1-0 win meant second-placed Cameroon would overtake the Elephants to go two points clear at the top of the group, and advance to the playoffs at the expense of Ivory Coast who have now missed the World Cup fiesta for the second consecutive time.
Portugal 1-2 Serbia
Cristiano Ronaldo will have some more work to do if he hopes to go to his fifth World Cup with Portugal. Serbia stunned the 2016 European champions at home, overturning an early 1–0 deficit to win 2–1 on a dramatic 90th-minute goal from second-half substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic to shock the Lisbon crowd. The Serbian squad rushed the field to celebrate its World Cup berth while Portugal will head to a new playoff format that features two single-leg elimination rounds in March.
Spain 1-0 Sweden
After starting the night one point ahead of second-placed Sweden in Group B, La Roja knew just a draw would send them to Qatar in this winner-takes-all clash in Seville. After struggling to break the Swedes for 85 minutes, it took Alvaro Morata to come off the bench to score a late winner and secure Spain’s place in next year’s World Cup. Sweden consigned to the playoffs.
France 8-0 Kazakhstan
Kylian Mbappe stole the show by bagging four goals to help France to a resounding 8-0 win over Kazakhstan. A win that secures the defending champions’ place in the World Cup finals in Qatar. Outclassing the Kazakhs at the Parc des Princes in Paris meant Didier Deschamps’ side would go top of Group D with four other goals from Karim Benzema (2), Adrien Rabiot, and Antoine Griezmann.
Netherlands 2-0 Norway
While two late goals by Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay meant Netherlands could seal their passage to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, for Norway and a promising Erling Haaland, it was the end of the road. The 2-0 win in Feyenoord on Tuesday saw Netherlands take the only automatic qualifying spot in Group G, while Norway finished in third, having only to dream about trying again ahead of the 2026 tournament.
Bolivia 3-0 Uruguay
While a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in the game before seemed bad for Uruguay, a 3-0 defeat away at Bolivia was worse. Four back-to-back defeats for Uruguay in the South American 2022 World Cup qualifiers – against Bolivia, Brazil, and two against Argentina – now leave Uruguay in 7th position and out of both the automatic and playoff qualifying spots for South America. They however have 4 games in the new year to remedy themselves.
Argentina 0-0 Brazil
Lionel Messi would be heading to the 2022 Qatar World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Brazil at home. The result saw Argentina pick South America’s second ticket to Qatar after Brazil, which previously clinched its World Cup spot earlier in November. Argentina – alongside Brazil – remained undefeated in the qualifying series, and as well, extended their unbeaten streak across all matches to 27 games.