Burkina Faso and Senegal added their names to the list of finalists for next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations after the weekend’s penultimate round of qualifying matches. The Burkinabe advanced to next year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon without kicking a ball, while two goals from Moussa Sow ensured Senegal’s progress from Group E as they beat the DR Congo 2-0 in Dakar.
Group A: Mali took top spot from Cape Verde Islands after handing them a 3-0 beating in Bamako. The return of Seydou Keita helped inspire home success as Cheick Diabate scored twice in four minutes midway through the first half and Mahamane Traore added one in the second half. Mali move to nine points while Zimbabwe are second on eight after a 3-0 win over Liberia in Harare. Mali will win the group if they beat Liberia away in October on the next matchday, but a winner between Cape Verde and Zimbabwe will remain in contention.
Group B: Guinea kept their three point lead over Nigeria, which means top place will come down to the match between the two countries in Abuja on 8 October. The Super Eagles will take the group if they win by two goals, but Guinea need just a draw to qualify. Dianbodo Balde climbed above the opposing defence to head home a corner in Conakry for a 1-0 win over Ethiopia. Joseph Yobo and Victor Obinna scored for Nigeria, pleasing coach Samson Siasia. “They did not panic. They did not lose focus, and they did everything we asked them to do even when things were not going our way in the first half," he said.
Group C: Playing under a new flag, Libya beat Mozambique 1-0 in neutral Egypt to set off widespread celebrations in Benghazi and Tripoli after the horrors of recent civil strife. Rabie El Lafi’s 30th minute goal means Libya have won all their home games, albeit two of the three were on neutral territory. They trail Zambia, who beat Comoros 2-1, by a single point and face them in Chingola next month. One of the sides might claim one of the two best second-place spots.
Group D: The goalless draw between the Central African Republic and Morocco leaves both sides on eight points, three more than Algeria and Tanzania, who also drew in Dar-es-Salaam. Youssef El Arabi hit the post twice in the first half for Morocco and was ruled offside when he finally did find the net in the 57th minute. Algeria marked their first game under new coach Vahid Halilhodzic with a 1-1 away draw, and they will host the CAR next, while the Moroccans will be at home against Tanzania.
Group E: Sow took his goal tally to four in the qualifiers as the Lions of Teranga moved into an unassailable position. The Congolese had Claude Le Roy on their bench as new coach but not enough power to hand him a dream return to the job. Cameroon went second in the group with a 5-0 thumping of Mauritius in Yaounde, with a first international goal for Leonard Kweuke, a second in as many matches for US-based Matthew Andongcho, a penalty from captain Samuel Eto’o and a late double from German-born Eric Maxim Choupo Moting.
Group F: On his birthday, Tangeni Shipahu enhanced his reputation as Namibia’s star of the future with a top-drawer winner seven minutes from time in Windhoek. It marked Namibia’s first points of the tournament and ended Gambia’s hopes of catching up to leaders Burkina Faso.
They did not panic. They did not lose focus.
Group G: New leaders Niger kept their 100 per cent home record in Niamey during 2012 preliminaries with a 2-1 win over South Africa. Bafana Bafana hit the woodwork after just five minutes, but a headed goal from Kofi Dankwa and a second just after half-time through Moussa Maazou were enough despite Andile Jali’s consolation. South Africa will still fancy their chances of finishing top as they host Sierra Leone and Niger finish away against Egypt, whose young side lost in Freetown on Saturday
Group H: Côte d’Ivoire’s perfect record remains and their goal tally is at 17 in five games as the Elephants went to Rwanda and inflicted a 5-0 hammering. Gervinho provided most of the inspiration, albeit he only scored near the end of the game, while Wilfried Bony netted twice between Salomon Kalou and Didier Ya Konan’s goals.
Group I: Top spot will be settled in Khartoum when Sudan host Ghana as both won at the weekend and share the lead on 13 points. Ghana’s first came early from Asamoah Gyan and the second 20 minutes from time from Emmanuel Agyemang Badu as Swaziland goalkeeper Sandile Ginindza proved a standout. Sudan won on Sunday in Brazzaville, scoring 13 minutes from the end through Ramadhan Agab. It is likely both Ghana and Sudan will go through as one of the best runners-up.
Group J: Uganda needed just a single point to reach the Nations Cup finals for the first time in 34 years, but they lost in Angola as Manucho and Flavio scored in the second half. The Cranes still have a point lead over Angola and a home game to come in Kampala against Kenya, while Palancas Negras travel to Guinea Bissau.
Group K: Malawi and Tunisia remain deadlocked in their battle for second, which in this five-team group ensures automatic qualification. They drew 0-0 in Blantyre on Saturday, a result which hands Tunisia a slight advantage of a home game against Togo to come and Malawi needing to win away in Chad. “We shouldn’t give up. We can still make it,” insisted Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri. Botswana had already secured top place but lost their unbeaten record in their eighth and final game of the preliminaries 1-0 at Togo.