England-born Stephen Constantine extended his fairy-tale start as Rwanda coach by plotting the downfall of Congo in a 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations eliminator this weekend. The Wasps shocked the Red Devils 2-0 in Kigali and won a penalty shootout 4-3 to reach the group phase of the qualifying competition.
Michel Ndahinduka put the home team ahead on 56 minutes at Stade Nyamirambo and Albania-based Meddie Kagere doubled the lead soon after. Former Cup of Nations title-holders Congo came closest to snatching an away goal midway through the second half when Cesaire Gandze was foiled by the woodwork.
Constantine, a 51-year-old former coach of Malawi, Sudan, India and Nepal, moved to Rwanda two months ago after guiding a club into the Cypriot premier division. His first match in charge delivered a stunning 3-0 Cup of Nations home victory over recently crowned African Nations Championship winners Libya.
The Wasps lost 2-0 away to Congo two weeks ago, but Constantine did not lose faith in his minnows, saying an early goal would bring them back into contention. There was no early goal in a lacklustre opening half, but two goals within eight minutes turned the tide and Patrick Sibomana converted the tie-clinching spot-kick.
The reward for Rwanda is a place in Group A with defending champions Nigeria and former champions South Africa and Sudan. All group winners and runners-up and the best of the seven third-place countries go to Morocco for the biennial African football showpiece played between 17 January and 8 February next year.
Malawi also took the shootout route to success, defeating Benin 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre through a John Banda goal and 4-3 on penalties. Young midfielder Banda struck on 14 minutes with an acrobatic volley that gave goalkeeper Emmanuel Fabiyi no chance.
The Malawian 'Flames' were unlucky not to score again as captain Joseph Kamwendo struck the woodwork and Gastin Simkonda had a goal ruled offside. West Bromwich Albion midfielder Stephane Sessegnon, leading scorer in the qualifiers with four goals, missed the first kick of the shootout for the Benin 'Squirrels'.
Malawi go into Group B where they will face Algeria, the most impressive African team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil, Mali and Ethiopia.
Jerome Ramatlhakwane equalised in the final minute to give Botswana a 1-1 away draw against Guinea Bissau at Estadio 24 de Setembro. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Guinea Bissau took the lead midway through the opening half when Portugal-based midfielder Ivanildo Cassama scored. A 3-1 aggregate victory secured Botswana a place in Group G, with record seven-time African champions Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal.
Uganda advance, Kenya and Tanzania out
Kenya and Tanzania were eliminated from the qualifying competition for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) in Morocco.
But it was not all gloom for east Africa as Uganda won in Mauritania to reach the mini-league phase, which kicks off during September. The 'Harambee Stars' of Kenya could manage only a 0-0 draw with the 'Crocodiles' of Lesotho in Nairobi despite dominating the third-round game and fell 1-0 on aggregate. Lesotho were given little chance of survival at the Nyayo Stadium having lost 11 consecutive Cup of Nations eliminators since defeating Zimbabwe in a 2002 qualifier.
But even the presence of foreign-based stars like midfielder Victor Wanyama from English Premier League club Southampton could not lift the home side to victory. Lesotho, who won the first leg 1-0 in Maseru, advance to the September-November mini-league phase where they will play Burkina Faso, Angola and Gabon.
Star midfielder Elias 'Domingues' Pelembe scored eight minutes from time to earn Mozambique a 2-1 triumph over Tanzania at Estadio Zimpeto in Maputo. The Mozambican 'Mambas' (snakes) won the tie 4-3 on aggregate having snatched a late 2-2 draw in Dar es Salaam two weeks ago.
Tanzania, who never defeated Mozambique in five previous Cup of Nations qualifiers, fell behind in first-half stoppage time when Josemar Machaisse scored. Mbwana Samata, who plays for Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe, levelled 13 minutes from time.
But the Tanzanian 'Taifa Stars', who needed to score again on the away-goal rule to survive, had hopes of a historic victory dashed by South Africa-based 'Domingues'. Tanzania are coached by Dutchman Mart Nooij, who was in charge of Mozambique from 2007 for four years. Mozambique progress to Group F, where they will face 2012 African champions Zambia, the Cape Verde Islands and Niger.
Ssentongo came off the bench four minutes from time in place of Luwagga Kizito and snatched the only goal two minutes into stoppage time. Uganda, who needed the away-goal rule to squeeze past Madagascar in the previous round, go into Group E with Ghana, Togo and Guinea.