There were wild celebrations in Egypt on Sunday as the country qualified for its first FIFA World Cup finals since 1990.
Liverpool forward Mo Salah struck an injury-time penalty, his second goal of the game, to give the team a 2-1 win over Congo and secure an unassailable position at the top of their African qualifying group with one game to spare.
Thousands took to the streets of the capital Cairo and across the country to celebrate a long-awaited return to world football’s showpiece event in Russia next summer.
Nigeria also booked their place in the finals, sealing qualification courtesy of a 1-0 win against Zambia. The 21-year-old Arsenal striker Alex Iwobi – nephew of Nigerian legend Jay-Jay Okocha – scored the winning goal to send the Super Eagles to their sixth appearance at the World Cup finals.
Watch Alex Iwobi’s goal that sent Nigeria to 2018 FIFA World Cup pic.twitter.com/voVOIJASDE— The Punch Newspapers (@MobilePunch) 7 октября 2017 г.
The final round of African qualifying games takes place on November 6, with Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco leading their respective groups going into the final round.
In the North, Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF), Costa Rica clinched their spot in Russia thanks to a last–gasp goal from Kendall Waston, which earned them a 1-1 draw against Honduras on Saturday.
That guaranteed the team one of the three automatic CONCACAF qualification spots, behind the already-qualified Mexico, and sent the team to their third successive World Cup finals.
The team celebrated by Real Madrid ‘keeper Keylor Navas shaving the head of coach Oscar ‘Macho’ Ramirez.
The remaining qualifiers in the region take place on October 10, with the USA favorites to secure the final automatic spot, with Panama and Honduras likely to fight it out for the right to play the winner of the Australia versus Syria playoff, the second leg of which will be played on the same day in Sydney. That tie is finely poised at 1-1, after the Syrians’ late equalizer in the first leg in Malaysia last week.
In Europe, Poland booked their spot in Russia when they beat Montenegro 4-2 in Warsaw on Sunday.
Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski was again on target, scoring his 16th qualifying goal to send his country to their first finals since 2006.
One Poland fan clearly appreciated Lewandowski’s efforts, running onto the pitch to kiss the striker’s boot.
Dziekujemy za doping 👏👏👏Widzimy sie w Rosji 👋👋👋Brawo zespol 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/HDQIsuLVKy— Grzegorz Krychowiak (@GrzegKrychowiak) 8 октября 2017 г.
Other European teams will look to book their places in Russia on Monday and Tuesday night when the final round of group-stage qualifying games take place.
Serbia are well-placed to seal automatic qualification in their group, while Euro 2016 heroes Iceland can also claim their automatic spot with victory over Kosovo.
The Netherlands are all but out of the competition, and require a huge win against Sweden to secure a playoff spot in their group, with France favorites to progress as group winners.
Switzerland travel to Portugal in a mouth-watering clash on Tuesday to determine who claims top spot in their group and who need to negotiate the playoffs.
The Swiss go into the game with a perfect qualifying record, but defeat to Portugal would give Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. top spot in the group on goal difference.
Belgium, Germany, Spain and England have already qualified from Europe.
South America is set for an intense qualification denouement on Tuesday, as an incredibly tight group sees Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay all vie for the remaining three automatic qualification spots behind already-qualified Brazil. The fifth-placed team will have to negotiate a playoff against New Zealand.