Liverpool's Sadio Mane stars as Senegal book World Cup 2018 slot

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Premier League pair Diafra Sakho and Sadio Mane played key roles as Senegal defeated South Africa 2-0 in Polokwane Friday to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

West Ham striker Sakho opened the scoring off a pass from Liverpool attacker Mane and both were involved in the move that led to a Thamsanqa Mkhize own-goal before half-time.

Victory gave Senegal an uncatchable five-point lead over Burkina Faso and Cape Verde in Group D with one round left.

The only previous World Cup appearance by Senegal was in 2002 when current coach Aliou Cisse captained a team that reached the quarter-finals in South Korea.

Bottom-of-the-table South Africa lie seven ponts behind Senegal ahead of a return match in Dakar next Tuesday, with Burkina Faso hosting Cape Verde at the same time.

South Africa defeated Senegal 2-1 in Polokwane last November, but FIFA ordered a replay because of “match manipulation” by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, who was banned for life.

Senegal are the third African qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia after Nigeria and Egypt, who secured places during the penultimate qualifying round last month.

The other two slots will be filled Saturday with north African countries Tunisia and Morocco needing draws to qualify.

Tunisia host out-of-contention Libya in Group A holding a three-point advantage over the Democratic Republic of Congo, who play Guinea in Kinshasa.

Morocco are one point in front of the Ivory Coast ahead of a showdown in Abidjan with the visitors hoping to end a 20-year absence from the World Cup.

South Africa goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune played with a protective white mask after fracturing a facial bone in a club match last weekend.

Senegal took the lead after 12 minutes when Sakho raced on to a Mane pass and side-footed the ball to the right of onrushing Khune.

Stung by falling behind so early, South Africa sought an equaliser and came close midway through the opening half at Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye failed to grasp a fierce close-range Themba Zwane shot, but recovered to catch the rebound after the ball struck inrushing Percy Tau.

South Africa came even close soon after when Lebogang Manyama swept a low cross against the crossbar and Senegal hastily cleared the loose ball.

The Senegalese Teranga Lions doubled their lead after 38 minutes against the run of play with another goal involving Sakho and Mane.

Sakho broke clear and crossed to Mane, whose shot was blocked by Khune only for the clearance to hit Mkhize and trickled back into the net.

As half-time approached, Manyama went close again to scoring, this time from a free-kick that Ndiaye tipped over.

South Africa introduced midfielders Andile Jali and Siphiwe Tshabalala midway through the second half, but neither made an impact.

Provided by AFP Sport

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The 13 official World Cup footballs as Lionel Messi unveils the Adidas Telstar18 for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Alex Rea 10/11/2017

For the most iconic stage, an iconic ball - Adidas unveiled the Telstar18 as the official match ball for next year's World Cup in Russia and it's one with a nod to the past, present and future.

The World Cup ball has been revolutionised by the German sports giant ever since their first at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.

Recent iterations like the Brazuca for Brazil 2014 and the infamous Jabulani for South Africa 2010 have used the host countries as a foundation for the design.

However, Adidas have opted to bring back a classic, unleashing the Telstar onto a 21st century audience. The original, a 32-panel ball with 12 black panels on a predominantly white design was created to be more visible on black and white televisions. The Telstar Durlast was a similarly designed version used in Germany four years later and it rightly lives within football folklore. Among the many new features for Telstar18, the one which stands is out the embedded NFC chip. [video width="1920" height="1088" m4v="http://sport360.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Untitled-1.m4v"][/video] It will be the first time the chip is ever used in an official match ball and enables consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone. Having gone through extensive testing with teams like Argentina, Colombia, Manchester United, Ajax, Real Madrid and Juventus you can be sure it's one of the best yet. And Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi gave the Telstar18 his seal of approval at a launch event in Moscow on Thursday. "I was lucky enough to get to know this ball a bit earlier and I managed to have a try with it," Messi said. "I like all of it: the new design, the colours, everything." Check out the gallery above to see all 13 of iterations of Adidas's official World Cup match ball.

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Argentina talisman Lionel Messi hoping to avoid Spain in World Cup draw

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Messi has had his say on the 2018 World Cup group stages.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi says the worst possible draw for his Argentina side at next year’s World Cup would be Spain in the first round.

“The worst that could happen to us would be to draw Spain at the group stages,” Messi told TyC Sports Wednesday from Moscow where Argentina play Russia in a friendly on Saturday.

“I would prefer to avoid them, they’d be tough opponents.”

In the interview with the Argentinian television station, Messi named Brazil, Germany and France alongside Spain as favourites to take the World Cup crown in Russia.

“I think that at the moment, they’re the strongest teams who give the best impressions, those who are playing best, with the best individuals.”

Messi also broached Argentina’s last-gasp qualification for the World Cup finals, which the Barcelona star sealed with a hat-trick in a rare 3-1 away victory over Ecuador.

“I always believed we’d get there, but I thought we would have tied up qualification before the Ecuador game,” said Messi, reiterating that he would like to end his career in his Argentinian birthplace of Rosario.

“I would love to play for Newell’s Old Boys, in the stadium where I’ve seen so many matches,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming years, how I’m going to feel. I live from day to day, I’m not focused on the future.”

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