Ghana suffered a shock 1-0 home loss against Sudan at the weekend as the African contest for places at the 2012 London Olympics football tournament kicked off. Martin al-Khalees was the party pooper in Accra, turning in an Osman al-Nour cross two minutes into stoppage time during the first leg of a last-32 qualifier.
Although strikers Kabiru Imoro and Bismarck Idan failed to click, the Black Meteors did create enough scoring chances to have established a lead ahead of the mid-April return match.
While six-time Olympic qualifiers Ghana are in trouble, fellow West African countries Nigeria and Côte D'Ivoire are virtually assured of advancing after creating big leads in home ties. Nosa Igiebor led the goal charge with a brace and Jude Ighalo, Lukman Haruna and Ekigho Ehiosun also netted as Nigeria thumped Equatorial Guinea 5-0 in Benin City.
Nigeria finished runners-up to Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and were the first African nation to strike gold with a thrilling 3-2 triumph against the same South American nation in Atlanta 12 years before.
Côte D'Ivoire struck twice in each half against Liberian opponents grieving the midweek death of Israel-based midfielder Patrick Doeplah of suspected cardiac arrest. Serge Deble was tormentor in chief for 2008 Beijing quarter-finalists Ivory Coast, scoring the first and third goals while the others came from Yacoub Meite and Lassina Traore.
Sydney 2000 gold medalists Cameroon failed to convert a first-half penalty as they struggled to a 2-1 victory over Tanzania in Yaounde thanks to a Mark Pangwoh brace while Emmanuel Ulimwengu scored for the East Africans.
A 60-hour journey by road and air from Tripoli to Johannesburg did not have a happy ending for Libya as they lost 4-2 to South Africa after trailing by four goals midway through the second half.
Fellow North African countries fared better with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia winning comfortably at home without conceding a goal and the quartet appear poised to make the next round during June.
Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Uganda and Zambia also triumphed, the games between Mali and Guinea and Senegal and Angola ended goalless, and Benin received a bye when Gambia withdrew.