Tunisia closes in on final playoffs for World Cup

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Associated Press

Posted on June 15, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 15 at 7:02 PM

Tunisia moved closer to Africa's final playoffs for the World Cup without even playing Saturday after group rival Sierra Leone's 1-0 loss in Cape Verde.

In a good weekend for North African teams, Libya neared its first World Cup appearance after Friday's 2-0 home win over a weakened Togo, with two of Togo's France-based players refusing to play in the qualifier in Tripoli because of security concerns.

The Tunisians need just a tie from Sunday's game with Group B's last-place Equatorial Guinea to seal a place in the final playoffs involving the 10 group winners, competing for five African places in Brazil next year.

Libya leads Group I by three points before Cameroon's visit to Congo on Sunday.

Ghana's hopes were boosted Saturday after Zambia was held to a 1-1 tie at home by Sudan, giving the Ghanaians the opportunity to leapfrog the Zambians at the top of Group D with a victory over Lesotho.

Burkina Faso won 1-0 in Republic of Congo to open up Group E and get within a point of the Congolese at the top with one round of games to come. Gabon beat Niger 4-1 for an outside chance at stealing that playoff spot. Uganda beat Angola 2-1 to move above Senegal in Group J before Senegal plays in Liberia.

Africa's long and complicated qualifying competition is nearing its end, with one more round of group games after Sunday before the deciding playoffs.

Along with Tunisia, Egypt will book its place in the playoffs if it beats Mozambique on the road Sunday, another lift for North African soccer after poor 2012 and 2013 African Cups for the region. Algeria also leads Group H.

But West Africa's powerhouses are still expected to challenge, with Libya being chased by Cameroon and Algeria by Mali. Nigeria and Ivory Coast are also closing in on the playoffs.

Ivory Coast, Africa's top-ranked team, will be through if it wins in Tanzania in Group C on Sunday. Morocco was playing Gambia later Saturday, needing a victory to have a chance at moving on instead of Ivory Coast.

Zambia's 1-1 tie with Sudan was a big blow to its hopes and a major boost for Ghana. Jacob Mulenga put former African champion Zambia ahead in the 70th minute, only for Mohamed Abdalla to tie the score just two minutes later.

Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a hat trick, all on penalties, in the 4-1 win over Niger. Defender Bruno Ecuele scored the other goal, while Niger had two players sent off after leading in a hectic game at Stade de Franceville.

Uganda scored twice in the last 10 minutes for a come-from-behind win over Angola, eliminating Angola and keeping its World Cup dream alive.

Botswana beat Central African Republic 3-2 in Group A, but that group will see top two Ethiopia and South Africa meet Sunday. An Ethiopian win will send it through to Africa's last 10 for the World Cup, just months after it made its return to the African Cup following a 30-year wait.

FIFA said Saturday the draw for those final five playoffs in Africa will be made on Sept. 16 and the five highest ranked teams according to the Sept. 12 FIFA rankings would be seeded for the draw. Africa's top five is currently Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Algeria.

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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