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Minnows prove mighty in African World Cup qualifying; Sexwale in, Bility out

Rigobert Song saw his new side cause a major upset.

African teams continued with the second round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers this week, as some of the major powerhouses were outshone by lesser lights. Elsewhere, Nigeria's teenagers proved that the continent can compete and dominate on a global stage and there's only one African left standing in the FIFA presidential race.

Minnows prove mighty

Egypt were Africa's biggest losers -- in terms of shock value, rather than the margin of defeat -- after losing first leg of their second round qualifier 1-0 to Chad. This was a team Egypt beat 5-1 in a 2017 African Nations Cup (ANC) qualifier just two months ago and who have recently employed a new coach. The match was Cameroon legend Rigobert Song's first in charge of Chad and it seems that he has had an immediate effect in the dressing room.

Mali were the other big team to be upset as they lost 2-1 to Botswana, a team ranked 42 places below them. Swaziland, ranked 130th, held Nigeria, who sit in 59th position, to a 0-0 draw while Comores, who sit at 177th, drew with 30th-placed Ghana. Comores were actually on the verge of pulling off a massive upset but the late goal scored by Ali M'Madi was wrong ruled offside.

The rest of the qualifiers were not quite as shocking although the continent's darlings Cape Verde, lost 1-0 to Kenya. Congo beat Ethiopia 4-3 in a thriller and there were wins for Cameroon, Tunisia, Guinea, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Benin, Uganda and South Africa, while Algeria and Senegal drew with Madagascar and Tanzania respectively. Still plenty to play for next week!

Teenage heroes

At least one of those teams who slipped up at qualifying had a consolation prize. Nigeria's under-17s gave the country a reason to celebrate after claiming a fifth U17 World Cup title. They beat Mali 2-0 in an all-African final and returned home to wonderful welcome in Abuja, where they were driven around on a victory parade and then treated to dinner with the country's sports minister Solomon Dalong.

Their coach Emmanuel Amunike said he hopes the youngsters can serve as an inspiration to the rest of the country. "Football is a powerful force and the win in Chile shows how successful we can be as a nation if we all work together for a common goal," he told BBC Sport.

One of the players who could do just that is Victor Osimhen. The young striker finished the tournament with a record 10 goals to win both the golden boot and the silver ball -- for top-scorer and second best player.

Borders closed

Al-Jazeera reported that Ethiopia were not going to allow neighbours Eritrea to play in the East African regional tournament, the CECAFA Cup, which it is hosting, because of political tensions.

But on Thursday, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed those reports as "baseless." The head of Ethiopia's Football Federation's Public Relations department, Wondimikun Alayu, said Eritrea was not among the countries that have confirmed participation in the competition.

Eritrean footballers often defect to countries they travel to because of poor living conditions at home. In 2012, 15 Eritrean players and the team doctor claimed political asylum in Uganda during the CECAFA Cup and last month, 10 more Eritrean players were granted asylum in Botswana, where they had travelled to play a World Cup qualifier.

Sexwale in, Bility out

South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale, who is also a former political activist and former government minister, is now the only candidate on the FIFA' five-man list to succeed Sepp Blatter.

Sexwale has not served on the South African football association but was on the organising committee for the 2010 World Cup and is expected to receive Africa's full support, especially now that their only other hopeful has been ruled out.

Musa Bility, president of the Liberian FA, did not pass FIFA's integrity check after he was embroiled in a controversy around the CAF presidential appointment.

In March 2013, Bility tried to legally challenge Blatter from being re-elected to CAF's top job unopposed but failed in his bid and was banned from all footballing activities for six months because he was found to have used confidential CAF documents in trying to make his case.

Bility revealed he was disappointed that caused him to be excluded from FIFA's list. "My decision to fight CAF at the time was a genuine attempt to change African football and prevent rules from being arbitrarily violated," he said. "I am awaiting the review by my team of lawyers to determine my next course of action."

Based in South Africa, Firdose is a cricket, football and rugby correspondent for ESPNCricinfo, ESPNFC & ESPN.co.uk

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