Sunday Ticker: Nigeria and Ivory Coast win first-leg matches; Kaka set for return from injury; and more

EmmanuelEmenikeNigeria1-Ethiopia (AFP)

By DAN KARELL

The final round of African World Cup qualifying kicked into high gear this weekend, with Nigeria and Ivory Coast recording key first-leg victories, and putting themselves within arms reach of the World Cup.

Thanks to a stoppage-time penalty kick from Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria defeated Ethiopia, 2-1, in Addis Ababa. Emenike scored a second-half brace after Ethiopia’s Behailu Assefa scored on a howler from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama in the 57th minute.

In Abidjan, Ivory Coast cruised to a 3-1 victory over Senegal, with the hosts scoring twice in the first 14 minutes and three straight before Papiss Cisse ruined the clean sheet with a goal in the sixth minute of 90th minute stoppage time. Both Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, formerly of Chelsea, scored for the Elephants.

Also in action on Saturday and Sunday in Africa World Cup qualifying was Burkina Faso defeating Algeria, 3-2, while Tunisia and Cameroon played to a scoreless draw.

Here are some more stories to catch you up on the world’s soccer news:

KAKA READY TO RETURN TO MILAN LINEUP

Only one game into his AC Milan return, former World Player of the Year Kaka suffered a thigh injury and has missed the last month.

With all of the struggles for Milan in the early part of this season, they received a huge positive on Sunday when head coach Max Allegri revealed that Kaka is nearing full recovery from the injury and will be on the bench when Milan face Udinese this weekend, and is likely to start against Barcelona next Tuesday.

Kaka never really made it as a member of Real Madrid after the Spanish club bought him from Italy in 2009. The Brazilian midfielder asked after he learned the diagnosis of his injury that he didn’t want to receive any salary until he returned to the field.

QUICK KICKS

The Italian Football Federation has announced friendly matches on November 15 and 19 against Germany in Milan, and Nigeria in London, respectively. (REPORT)

Gerard Pique, Alvaro Arbeloa, and Sergio Ramos all missed Spain training on Sunday, leaving them as doubts for Spain’s final World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday against Georgia. (REPORT)

Ashley Cole has been ruled out of England’s final World Cup qualifier on Tuesday against Poland due to a rib injury. (REPORT)

Switzerland and Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri has returned back to Munich after suffering a thigh injury while on international duty. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Impressed with Nigeria and the Ivory Coast’s wins? Do you see Kaka playing this weekend? Do you see Spain struggling if Pique, Ramos, and Arbeloa can’t play?

Share your thoughts below.

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