By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The small Comoros Islands and kingdom of Swaziland enjoyed a rare outing in the World Cup spotlight on Friday by holding two of African soccer’s established powers to goalless draws in the first leg of their second round qualifying ties.
The Comoros, in only their third World Cup campaign, were denied a famous victory over Ghana in Moroni when they had late effort from Al M’Madi ruled out for offside which television replays showed to be a erroneous call from the linesman.
Halifa Soule struck the post for the Comoros early on but the same upright denied Ghana’ Emmanuel Agyeman Duah and Dede Ayew in quick succession in the second half in hot and humid conditions.
Ghana remain heavily fancied to advance after the second leg in Kumasi on Tuesday but the Comoros, ranked 177th in the world, will have done much to earn well deserved respect.
The 130th ranked Swaziland also proved combative as they held Nigeria in their match at the Somhlolo Stadium where John Obi Mikel came closest to scoring as he hit a curling free kick against the woodwork.
But Cameroon, who have been to more World Cups than any other African country, wasted no time dealing with minnow opposition as they scored three goals in a four-minute spell before half-time to win 3-0 away in Niger.
Stephane Mbia, Vincent Aboubakar and Edgar Salli all netted as Cameroon played a first match since the parted ways with German coach Volker Finke last month.
Cameroon, whose appearance in Brazil last year was their seventh at a World Cup, had former international Alexandre Belinga in charge of their side for the first time.
African champions Ivory Coast were weakened by the absence of several key players, including Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony, but still won 1-0 in neighbouring Liberia with Belgian-based striker Cyriac Bohi Bi scoring on the stroke of half-time.
South Africa conceded a goal to teenage striker Gerson after just 90 seconds but went on to register a 3-1 away victory over Angola in Benguela.
The 2010 World Cup hosts replied through Tokelo Rantie and Thamsanqa Gabuza and a soft late penalty converted by Andile Jali, who then got sent off after his provocative celebrations angered the home crowd.
Tunisia came from a goal down to score twice in six minutes midway through the second half to beat Mauritania 2-1 away. Wahbi Khazri and Yassine Chikhaoui scored after captain Oumar Ndiaye had given Mauritania the half-time lead in Noukachott.
Kenya scored after just nine minutes through Michael Olunga with a close-in header to beat the Cape Verde Islands in Nairobi but will take only a slender 1-0 advantage to Tuesday’s return leg.
Faisal Salah converted a penalty for Libya as they beat Rwanda 1-0 in Sousse. The civil strife and uncertain security situation in the country means Libya are forced to host their international matches in neighbouring Tunisia.
World Cup qualification continues in Africa over the weekend and on Tuesday, after which 20 countries will emerge from the knockout rounds to play in the group phase, which starts late next year.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)