/ Soccer

Algeria and Ghana book World Cup berths

Updated: Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013 00:17 | Comments

Ghana reached the quarter-finals stage at the last World Cup
Ghana reached the quarter-finals stage at the last World Cup

Algeria and Ghana secured places at the World Cup finals with play-off wins on Tuesday.

Burkina Faso's dream of a first appearance at the World Cup was ended by Algeria in a 1-0 defeat.

The west African nation failed to make the most of their 3-2 first-leg lead in their qualifying play-off and paid the price for not showing more ambition.

Algeria captain Madjid Bougherra scored the crucial goal just after half-time which sent his nation through to their fourth World Cup.

The game was short on chances and neither side appeared to want to risk too much with such a big prize at stake but Algeria, unbeaten in Mustapha Tchaker Stadium since 2002, quickly assumed the upper hand.

However, they failed to create much and their only chance of the first half saw Faouzi Ghoulam's left-wing cross headed wide at the near post by Islam Slimani.

Even Bougherra's goal four minutes after the interval was courtesy of a huge slice of luck.

The debate as to whether the former Rangers centre-back should still have been on the pitch after receiving only a booking for launching a two-footed, off-the-ground lunge at Charles Kabore just before the break was still continuing when the goal went in.

That El Arabi Soudani had already escaped without punishment for planting his boot into the chest of Jonathan Zongo as he tried to win the ball was another source of irritation for Burkina Faso.

That feeling of frustration grew when Ghoulam's free-kick dropped to Bougherra, now plying his trade with Qatari side Lekhwiya, and while his shot was blocked Bakary Kone's goalline clearance rebounded off the Algeria captain and back into the net.

Burkina Faso, who registered five changes from their first-leg victory, came to life in the final quarter of the game but substitute Alain Traore's off-target drive was the closest they came to troubling goalkeeper Mohamed Zemmamouche.

In the first of four added minutes - of which only two were played - at the end of a half punctuated by endless time-wasting, Algeria almost pressed the self-destruct button when a corner was deflected on to their crossbar.

However, Burkina Faso, who were 92nd in the world rankings earlier this year prior to finishing runners-up in the African Nations Cup, ultimately went out with a whimper.

Earlier, Ghana claimed their place in next year's World Cup finals despite a 2-1 defeat by Egypt in their qualification play-off second leg match in Cairo.

Egypt had a mountain to climb after they were thrashed 6-1 by Ghana in the first game in Kumasi last month, and although they dominated and made two breakthroughs thanks to Amr Zaki and Mohamed Gedo, it was not enough to change their fortunes.

Finding at least five goals at home while keeping a clean sheet was always going to be a tall order, but with nothing to lose, the Pharaohs started off with intent against a Black Stars side who were surprisingly subdued before substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng scored in the 89th minute.

Mohamed Abou-Treika's long-range free-kick went close early on as it narrowly missed the Ghana net while Mahmoud Kahraba just failed to get on the end of a through pass as visiting goalkeeper Fatau Dauda cleared the danger.

However, Egypt did go ahead in the 25th minute when Dauda flapped at a free-kick fired in by Mohamed Aboutriaka, with Zaki on hand to steer the ball into the net.

Zaki went close again with a dipping strike in the 35th minute which Dauda tipped over the bar as Egypt threw everything at their opponents.

Ghana were under the cosh approaching half-time but Mohamed Salah's shot was saved by the keeper in stoppage time as the Black Stars went into the break looking fragile.

Egypt continued in the same vein at the start of the second half, with Gedo's shot on the turn blocked by the Ghana defence before Salah sent a curling effort over the bar.

Aboutriaka went close with a 57th-minute volley but time was beginning to run out for the Egyptians with four more goals needed to claim a stunning turnaround.

The hosts continued to push forward though and Salah saw a shot cleared off the line with just over 15 minutes remaining, before Michael Essien hacked the ball to safety for Ghana.

However they did find another score through Hull's on-loan striker Gedo, who slid the ball past a Dauda in the 84th minute.

Egypt could not make any more inroads though and Boateng pulled one back for the Black Stars late on with a simple finish from close range.

That was not enough to save Ghana from defeat on the day, but they had already done the hard work in the first leg as they sealed a third successive appearance in the World Cup finals.

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