- Qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations nearing completion
- Benin and Sierra Leone will contest the final place at later date
- Comoros and Gambia set for AFCON debuts; South Africa and Congo DR miss out
While countries from CONCACAF, UEFA and AFC were occupied with FIFA World Cup™ qualifying over the past week, African teams were competing for the final berths at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2021 set to take place next January in Cameroon. Benin and Sierra Leone will contest the last available slot at a later date after the postponement of their March 30 fixture.
This week, 18 countries booked their places alongside hosts Cameroon and the four teams who had secured early qualification. Comoros and Gambia both made history by reaching their maiden AFCON finals.
Among the big losers were South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Congo DR and Congo, who will have to sit out the 33rd edition of Africa’s continental championship.
FIFA.com looks back at some of the key results from the Mother Continent during the final qualifying matchdays.
Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, Mali, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Comoros, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Sudan, Malawi, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde
☝ Did you know…?
🔘 No team managed to win all their games during the group stage. Tunisia came the closest with five wins and one draw.
🔘 Barring an unlikely change when the postponed Sierra Leone-Benin match takes place, Zambia's Patson Daka and Nigeria's Victor Osimhen will top the scoring charts with five goals apiece.
🔘 Four of the top six scorers in qualifying will miss the finals: South Africa's Percy Tau (4 goals), Central Africa Republic’s Louis Mafouta (4), Burundi's Saidi Ntibazonkiza (4) and Zambia's Patson Daka (5)
🔘 Senegal, the continent’s highest placed team in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, ended their Group I campaign with a 1-1 draw (courtesy of a 96th minute equaliser) with Eswatini, the team ranked 153rd in the world.
🔘 Madagascar needed a victory over Niger in their final group game for a second successive Cup of Nations appearance. Unfortunately, the Barea came up short in a scoreless draw, much to the delight of Ethiopia, who help on to second place in the group.
🔘 Uganda experienced similar disappointment in their final match against Malawi. Needing just a draw to book their place in Cameroon, they went down 1-0 to the Flames, who qualified in their place!
🔘 After his side had ended Kenyan hopes of qualifying with a 1-1 draw in Nairobi, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah went in person to the Harambee Stars’ dressing room to comfort his opponents – with the images subsequently going viral.
43 - With his brace in the 4-0 defeat of Comoros, Mohamed Salah took his tally to 43 goals in 70 games, making him the second highest scorer in Pharaohs’ history, still some way behind Hossam Hassan’s mark of 68 goals in 176 appearances.
24 - Algeria have now gone 24 games unbeaten in all competitions. Two more, and Les Fennecs will match the continental record held by Côte d'Ivoire
8 - Eight teams went unbeaten throughout the qualifiers: Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Cabo Verde, Morocco, and Burkina Faso.
2 - Two teams will be making their AFCON debut in Cameroon: Gambia and Comoros. Meanwhile, Malawi will be returning to the continental championship for the first time since 2010.
👂 The quote
"This group needs to build a better understanding and play more as a unit. We've been building a team for over a year and have used a lot of players. Today, we’re not far from the squad that we’ll use for all our World Cup qualifiers." - Vahid Halilhodzic, Morocco coach