Nigeria suffered a setback to their hopes of playing in the 2012 African Nations Cup when held 2-2 by Ethiopia in Addis Ababa today. The 'Super Eagles' flew to the eastern city in high spirits after a 4-1 friendly triumph over a second-string Argentina team four days ago in Abuja, where they also scored four goals last March against the Ethiopians.
Ikechukwu Uche put the visitors ahead midway through the first half but goals just before and after half-time by Saladin Seid turned the tide and the home team were four minutes from a shock win when Joseph Yobo equalised.
Ethiopia, who lost a home warm-up match to Sudan last weekend, were a transformed team in their first competitive match under new Belgium-born handler Tom Saintfeit. He previously coached Namibia with limited success before being hired by Zimbabwe, but had to flee that country to dodge immigration officials wanting to detain him for training the national squad without a work permit.
Guinea will take a three-point lead over Nigeria with two rounds to go if they defeat bottom-of-the-table Madagascar in Conakry later Sunday and only group winners are guaranteed a place at the biennial tournament.
A post-match brawl in which Zimbabwe goalkeeper Tapiwa Kapini was pushed to the ground by an opponent marred a 2-1 dramatic victory over Mali which lifted the 'Warriors' within two points of Group A pacesetters Cape Verde Islands. The referee showed one Malian a red card as the visitors vented their anger after losing to a twice-taken Knowledge Musona penalty in stoppage time at Rufaro Stadium.
Musona, leading scorer with 15 goals in the recently completed South African Premiership, broke the deadlock just before half-time and El Hadj Mahamane Traore levelled five minutes into the second half.
Democratic Republic of Congo climbed above Cameroon into second place behind Group E leaders Senegal thanks to a 2-1 win over Mauritius on the Indian Ocean island. Jonathan Bru raised hopes of a first round victory for the Mauritians by converting a penalty only for the Congolese 'Lions' to roar back through goals from Diba Ilunga and Patou Kabangu before half-time.
Sudan joined Ghana at the top of Group I by overcoming struggling Swaziland 2-1 at Lobamba where Badreldin Eldood broke the deadlock midway through the second half, Manqoba Kunene equalised and Allada Yatif grabbed the winner.
Botswana, the surprise first qualifiers for the finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next January, sealed first place in Group K despite being held 0-0 by Malawi in Gaborone. This is the only five-team pool so the runners-up also qualify automatically with Malawi three points ahead of Tunisia, who host lowly Chad later Sunday.
Burundi overcame neighbours Rwanda 3-1 in a Group H Central African derby with Seremani Ndikumana, Saido Ntibazonkiza and Papy Saty scoring for the 'Swallows' and Bokota Labama on target for the 'Wasps'.