TUNIS – Former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje made a string of superb saves to help Cameroon force a 0-0 World Cup Africa play-off draw in Tunisia on Sunday.
Given a second chance after Cape Verde were disqualified, the Tunisians attacked relentlessly in the early stages only to be foiled by the 30-year-old France-born shot-stopper.
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o, back after a short-lived retirement, was always a threat in the first leg of a tie offering a ticket to the 2014 finals in Brazil.
The teams, who boast 10 World Cup appearances between them, clash again in the second leg in Yaounde on November 17 with the odds favouring the 'Indomitable Lions'.
Tunisia flew out of the starting blocks with Amine Chermiti having a shot blocked by Itandje with just 10 seconds gone at Stade Olympique on the outskirts of Tunis.
Houcine Ragued and Chermiti again went close as the 'Carthage Eagles' sought an early breakthrough while Eto'o saw his long-range shot comfortably saved at the other end.
Itandje had to be at his acrobatic best on 17 minutes, pushing over a dipping medium-range drive from Wissem Ben Yahia.
There was no rest for the Cameroon shot-stopper, this time keeping out a Chermiti header as Tunisia used the flanks to create chances.
Eto'o was the victim of a two-foot lunge from behind by Sameh Derbaly and recovered to later cut the ball back for Jean Makoun, who should have done better than fire wide.
Substitute Ben Fakhreddine Youssef and Pierre Webo squandered good chances in a less frenetic second half.
Emmanuel Emenike scored both goals as Nigeria triumphed 2-1 in Ethiopia to all but seal a fifth World Cup appearance.
His fierce drive from outside the box brought the 'Super Eagles' level midway through the second half before calmly converting a last-minute penalty.
Ethiopian Girma Adane wasted several good first-half chances and Salahdin Ahmed had a shot cleared off the line by Godfrey Oboabona.
The 'Waliya Antelopes' went ahead early in the second half when Nigeria goalkeeper and captain Vincent Enyeama caught a harmless Behailu Assefa cross behind the goal-line.
Ethiopia caused the shock of the mini-league previous stage, winning a group in which 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa were top seeds.
Burkina Faso kept alive hopes of a first World Cup appearance through a controversial 3-2 victory over Algeria in Ouagadougou Saturday.
The late winner came from an Aristide Bance penalty that television replays suggested should not have been awarded.
Essaid Belkalem had his arms behind his back when the ball struck him on the chest, but the Zambian referee awarded a spot-kick for hand-ball.
Bance, who stood out with his dyed blond mohawk hairstyle, was a relieved match-winner as he had a first-half penalty saved by goalkeeper Adi Mbolhi.
Midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa, voted the best player at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, was outstanding and broke the deadlock just before halftime.
Sofiane Feghouli equalised early in the second half, Djakaridja Kone put the 'Stallions' ahead a second time and Carl Medjani brought the 'Desert Foxes' level again.
Chelsea old boys Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou were among the Ivory Coast scorers in a 3-1 Abidjan triumph over Senegal.
Gervinho, another former English Premier League performer who moved from Arsenal to Roma in mid-year, played a part in all the Ivorian goals.
A foul on him allowed captain Drogba to convert a penalty, and his cross forced Lamine Sane to concede an own goal with only 14 minutes gone.
Kalou was put through by a superb Gervinho pass five minutes after halftime and he fired past Bouna Coundoul to suggest a rout was in prospect.
But Senegal had the final say, Papiss Cisse pouncing on a loose ball to fire home from close range six minutes into additional time.
Ghana host Egypt Tuesday in a much-anticipated final first-leg fixture and the return matches will be staged in mid-November. – SuperSport