Liverpool star Sadio Mane converted the winning penalty on Tuesday to take African champions Senegal to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at the expense of Egypt, while Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco also booked their places in the finals on a frantic night of playoff action.
Senegal won the second leg of the African playoff 1-0 in Diamniadio thanks to a fourth-minute goal from Boulaye Dia and the teams finished level at 1-1 on aggregate after extra time.
As was the case in the Africa Cup of Nations final last month, Mane was entrusted with taking the crucial fifth Senegal kick and, once again, he made no mistake to give his side a 3-1 shootout victory.
Among the three Egyptians who failed to score in the shootout was Sane’s Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah, who uncharacteristically blazed his kick over the crossbar.
Only four of the nine penalty takers were successful with captain Kalidou Koulibaly and Saliou Ciss missing for Senegal and Salah, ‘Zizo’ and Mostafa Mohamed for Egypt.
As Senegal celebrated a second straight qualification for the World Cup, Egypt were left to lament another dramatic loss to Senegal this year.
📅 6 February: Mane scores the penalty that secures Senegal’s first AFCON title against Egypt.
📅 29 March: Mane scores the penalty that sends Senegal to the World Cup against Egypt.
Talk about being 𝙘𝙡𝙪𝙩𝙘𝙝!🥶 pic.twitter.com/AoXFnRMj0C
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) March 29, 2022
There were no goals in the Cup of Nations final that went to extra time in Yaounde last month, leading to a shootout which Senegal won 4-2 with Mane converting the fifth penalty for his side.
The drama in Diamniadio came soon after Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey scored the goal that took Ghana to the World Cup as they forced a 1-1 draw in Nigeria to win the playoff on away goals.
Partey struck after 10 minutes in Abuja and, although another Premier League star, William Troost-Ekong, levelled from a 22nd-minute penalty, Nigeria failed to score again. The first leg ended goalless.
The Black Stars of Ghana are back in the World Cup finals after qualifying in 2006, 2010 and 2014, but missing out four years ago.
The defeat was a massive blow for favourites Nigeria, who were chasing a seventh appearance in eight attempts since debuting at the 1994 World Cup.
Public servants in the Nigerian capital were given a half day and free transport was arranged from the suburbs to ensure a capacity 60,000 crowd cheered on the Super Eagles.
But the home team fell behind early on when Partey’s shot from outside the box slipped between the hands of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and into the net.
It was the latest in a series of blunders by Nigeria goalkeepers with Maduka Okoyo blamed for the Tunisian goal that knocked his team out of the recent Africa Cup of Nations at the last-16 stage.
Troost-Ekong was the calmest person in the cauldron of noise midway through the opening half as he sent Ghana goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott the wrong way from the penalty spot to equalise.
Napoli forward Victor Osimhen had the ball in the net for Nigeria soon after, but it was ruled offside after a VAR check.
Nigeria applied constant second-half pressure, but could not break down a Ghana defence marshalled by Leicester City centre back Daniel Amartey.
Ghana started the two-leg tie as underdogs after a dismal showing at the Cup of Nations in January, with a loss to minnows the Comoros condemning them to a humiliating first-round exit.
Azzedine Ounahi scored twice as Morocco trounced Democratic Republic of Congo 4-1 in Casablanca to reach the finals for a sixth time.
Tarik Tissoudali and Paris Saint-Germain full back Achraf Hakimi also netted for the Atlas Lions, who qualified 5-2 on aggregate after the first leg finished 1-1 in Kinshasa.
The outclassed Congolese Leopards trailed by four goals before Ben Malango snatched a consolation goal 13 minutes from time.
Tunisia secured their place in Qatar despite being held 0-0 at home by Mali in the second leg of a playoff.
A pre-match warning by Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri to his team that the return match would be even tougher than the first leg in Bamako last Friday proved spot on.
Having built a 1-0 lead in Mali through a Moussa Sissako own goal, Tunisia were unable to build on their aggregate advantage and only scraped through.