Duo book Olympic ticket

Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire have both made sure of places at next year's Men's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing after success in their qualifiers at the weekend.

Cameroon's 3-1 away win over Guinea ensured their progress to yet another Men's Olympic Football Tournament after closest rivals Morocco were beaten 2-0 in Botswana.

Meanwhile, Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou, called-up to bolster Côte d'Ivoire, scored the last goal in a convincing 4-1 win for the over second placed Zambia gave them a first ever trip to the Men's Olympic Football Tournament.

The result in Abidjan proved a historic breakthrough for the Ivorians, confirming their growing international standing.

French-based striker Gervais Yao Kouassi grabbed two goals and Sekou Cisse, who is on the books of Roda JC Kerkrade in the Netherlands, netted the other to ensure top place in Group B.

On Friday Ghana and Nigeria drew 0-0 in Group A in Accra. Nigeria will qualify if they beat South Africa in their final group game at home in March.

Lions find their roar
Cameroon, gold medal winners in Sydney in 2000, had a slender one point advantage over Morocco before the weekend's penultimate round of qualifiers, but now find themselves with an insurmountable lead at the section's summit.

OSC Lille's Henry Elong Ewane opened the scoring after just 13 minutes but Guinea were back on level terms level 11 minutes later. However, Cameroon's 'Lions Espoir' were back in the lead in the 38th minute with a goal from Alexis Enam Mendomo.

He set up a third goal for Christian Bekamenga in the second half and qualification was assured when the news came through of Morocco's 2-0 in Gaborone.

"We attacked as much as possible but still remained vigilant in defence," explained victorious Cameroon coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile. "It was essential was to qualify and we have achieved that. We played a good game but it was not perfect," added the Cameroon coach.

Also celebrating was French coach Gerard Gili, once at the helm of Marseille, who has led the Ivorians to China next year.

"I am very satisfied because we have achieved our objective, it's the result of long, hard work. All the players stayed with the project and now they have borne the fruit," said Gili after the one-sided win at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium.

Kouassi put the Ivorians in front in the 32nd minute and then added his second five minutes later, Cisse made it 3-0 just before the hour mark before Given Singuluma reduced the deficit with 20 minutes remaining.

Kalou, playing his first game for the U-23 side, put the seal on a satisfying Sunday afternoon with the fourth goal in the 78th minute.

Sorrow for Senegal
Senegal, who like Zambia had outside hopes of qualifying from Group B, saw their campaign ended with a 1-0 defeat by Mali in Bamako on Saturday.

Yacouba Diarra netted the only goal of the game for Mali's first win of the group campaign.

Ghana needed a home win over Nigeria in Accra on Friday to make sure of their place in the Olympics but it was the Nigerians who were celebrating after a goalless draw.

Nigeria's coach Samson Siasia was hoisted aloft on to the shoulders of players and supporters after the draw which left Ghana still two points ahead but with their campaign now completed.

Nigeria have one match left in March at home to South Africa where they will be heavily fancied to get the three points they need to again make a trip to the Olympics, where they were gold medalists in Atlanta in1996.

"These boys have done it. I am overwhelmed. As usual, these players have surprised me again and showed that they can withstand any pressure," said a smiling Siasia after the draw.