POLOKWANE: Senegal have seized a second chance to qualify for the World Cup, beating South Africa 2-0 in a replay of a game they first lost last year.
FIFA ordered the qualifier to be replayed because of match-fixing by the referee in the initial match in November 2016.
At the centre of the decision was a penalty against Senegal for a non-existent handball that helped South Africa win 2-1.
Senegal used Friday’s contentious replay at the same South African stadium in Polokwane to seal their place at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Sadio Mane was pivotal in both goals. He set up Diafra Sakho for the opener in the 12th minute and forced an own goal by South Africa defender Thamsanqa Mkhize in the 39th.
“Thank you, South Africa,” he said. “It was not an easy game for us but we kept pushing.”
As Senegal’s qualification was confirmed at the final whistle, the Senegalese players huddled and bounced up and down in celebration.
Coach Aliou Cisse knelt and held his arms up.
Cisse was captain of the Senegal team that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002, then only the second African team to get to the last eight.
That was the last and only time Senegal have made it to the World Cup.
Senegal join Nigeria and Egypt as qualifiers for the 2018 tournament from Africa, so far.
The last two qualifiers from Africa will be decided on Saturday. Either Tunisia or Congo and Morocco or Ivory Coast will make up the contingent in Russia.
Meanwhile, Nigeria couldn’t hold on in Constantine on Friday as hosts Algeria scored an 88th-minute equaliser for 1-1.
Without FIFA’s intervention, Senegal’s group would have gone down to the last qualifiers next week and all four teams would have still had a chance of qualifying.
Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are the other two sides, both of whom were searching for a first-ever appearance at the World Cup.
Completing South Africa’s misery, they created more chances in the replay but couldn’t make them count, hitting the crossbar in the first half and forcing a slew of saves from Senegal goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye.
“All that talk doesn’t mean anything because they beat us 2-0 and they go to Russia,” South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said.