The number of 2011 African Nations Championship qualifiers will rise to eight Sunday with Côte d'Ivoire set to secure a berth. They lead fellow west Africans Togo 2-1 after the first leg of a second round qualifier two weeks ago and have the advantage of playing before their supporters.
Tiezan Kone was the Ivorian first-leg hero, scoring late in the first half to cancel an early strike by Foovi Aguidi and snatching the winner eight minutes from full-time in Lome.
International unknown Kone is an in-form goal poacher having struck twice for Sewe San Pedro in the second-tier African Confederation Cup club competition this year.
Scoring two away goals gives the country that hosted the first Nations Championship last year a huge advantage as they can even afford to lose 1-0 at home and advance on the away-goal rule.
Winning in Togo rewarded a commitment to attack by Côte d'Ivoire coach Georges Kouadio, who has struggled to get players released from domestic clubs for the qualifiers.
"I kept my promise not to defend in Lome. We imposed our style of play and this ensured a positive result," Kouadio told reporters ahead of the return fixture.
Completing the field
Hosts Sudan, defending champions Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Niger and Cameroon have booked places at the 16-nation championship scheduled for next January and February.
Libya or Algeria will join the qualifiers next weekend with the other seven slots to be filled a week before the June 11 World Cup kick-off in South Africa.
The biennial Nations Championship is restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth and DR Congo shocked Ghana 2-0 in the final of the first tournament.