DR Congo reached the play-off phase of African World Cup qualifying when beating Benin 2-0 in Kinshasa on Sunday.
Bidding to reach a first World Cup since 1974, the Congolese took an early lead through a Dieumerci Mbokani penalty before Ben Malango sealed the win when heading home from close range after 74 minutes.
Captain Mbokani, 35, has belied his veteran status in this qualifying campaign with four goals in six games.
The victory enabled the Congolese to leapfrog their opponents at the top of Group J on the sixth and final round of games.
DR Congo take the fifth of ten places available in the play-offs, with Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Senegal having also booked their berth in the third and final qualifying round.
Africa’s five World Cup representatives will be decided when the two-legged play-offs take place in March.
The Congolese finished the group with 11 points, one more than Benin, while Tanzania recorded eight and Madagascar four.
Also on Sunday, Madagascar drew 1-1 at home to Tanzania as both sides also finished their Group J campaign.
Simon Msuva gave the visitors the lead as he slid home left-footed after 25 minutes, with Hakim Abdalah levelling for the Malagasy as he registered his first goal of the campaign when firing past a packed defence.
Madagascar were reduced to ten men shortly after as Pascal Razakanantenaina received a second yellow, with Tanzania unlucky not to grab all three points when hitting the crossbar from the resulting free-kick.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwe drew 1-1 at home to Ethiopia in Harare in Group G, from which neither side – both of whom will be at January’s Africa Cup of Nations – can progress.
After Kuda Mahachi’s sumptuous 35-yard strike gave them the lead shortly before the break, Zimbabwe had looked on course for their first group win only for Abubeker Nassir to coolly equalise four minutes from time as he glided past the goalkeeper before finding an empty net.
Later on Sunday, the group will be wrapped up when South Africa – who lead with 13 points – need to avoid defeat in Ghana, who have 10 points, to book their place in the play-offs.
Bafana Bafana have not reached the World Cup since becoming the first African hosts of the event in 2010.
Both Senegal and Congo also conclude their second-round campaigns on Sunday as the Teranga Lions, who have already reached the playoffs and who will be without the injured Sadio Mane, look to retain their unbeaten run in Group H.
In the Moroccan city Agadir, Mali ensured they finished their Group E campaign unbeaten when beating Uganda 1-0.
The Eagles overcame having to play on neutral territory, because their home stadium is deemed unfit to host internationals, with Kalifa Coulibaly scoring the match-winner just 19 minutes in.
Mali’s fifth victory took them to 16 points in the group, seven superior than Uganda, their closest rivals, while Kenya took three points and Rwanda just the one. Kenya host Rwanda as the group concludes on Monday.
Source: BBC Africa