The African region's slightly odd process for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers meant that all teams, even the most favored ones on the continent, faced the prospect of early elimination thanks to a home-and-away two-legged playoff round before the qualifying group stages proper got under way. While all the higher ranked teams were ensured a favorable draw, first leg results like the scoreless draws in Comoros and Swaziland for Ghana and Nigeria, respectively, meant that there was a chance neither African footballing power would make it to the next round of qualifying. Fortunately, both teams stepped up, with matching (again!) 2-0 wins on Friday.
Ghana were up first, Avram Grant fielding a lineup of two Ayews and a Gyan. Nerves were calmed with an 18th minute goal from Wakaso, but the result wasn't put to bed until a late red card for Comoros and a goal from Jordan Ayew five minutes from time. Baba Rahman once again played the full match, and once again collected a yellow card.
Nigeria left it even later than the Black Stars, finishing the first half still at 0-0 against Swaziland. Moses Simon finally broke the deadlock five minutes after the restart and Efe Ambrose sealed the deal with three minutes to go. It was a better performance from the Super Eagles than in the first leg, but still hardly convincing. They have plenty of time to get things in gear, fortunately, before the next round of qualifying begins. Surprisingly, John Obi Mikel did not feature in today's game.
Neither did Victorien Angban for Ivory Coast, who took care of Liberia 3-0 (4-0 on aggregate).
Last, but certainly not least, there was Bertrand Traore, the budding young star of Stallions of Burkina Faso. Playing once again from the very start, he popped up in the 70th minute to score his side's second goal of the night and ensure that they overturned a one-goal first leg deficit against Benin to advance to the next round of qualifying (2-0 on the night; 3-2 on aggregate). Well done, young man!