The 2019 AFCON qualifiers have delivered their verdict after Day 6 matches with all 24 teams to take part in the the tournament now known officially.
In Group A, Senegal won the group with 16points while Madagascar got the second ticket on 10points. The Teranga Lions beat Madagascar 2-0 in Dakar to claim top spot in the group thanks to Mbaye Niang’s brace. In the other game in the group, Equatorial Guinea traveled to Khartoum to beat Sudan 1-4 to claim third spot in the group. The home side opened the scoring at the 15th minute through Malik Bakhit. Equatorial Guinea got their equalizer four minutes later from the penalty spot through Emilio Nsue who scored another first half penalty to put them ahead. Pedro Ganet and WestHam United’s Pedro Obiang got their third and fourth goals in the second half. Angel Lopez’s team earned 6points but not enough to qualify for Egypt 2019.
Morocco and Cameroon qualified from Group B with both Atlas and Indomitable Lions scoring 11points each. Morocco’s 0-0 draw with Malawi earned them top spot in the group. Cameroon on their part thrashed the Comoros Islands in Yaoundé 3-0 with goals from Eric Choupo-Moting, Christian Bassogog and Clinton Njie. The could still be another twist in the story with the Comoros waiting for a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sports on a possible disqualification of Cameroon for being stripped off the hosting rights of the competition in 2019.
Mali led the group from start to finish and concluded with a 3-0 win against South Sudan who failed to record even a single point. Salif Coulibaly, Moussa Djenepo and Adama Traore were on target for the Eagles of Mali. The surprise of Group came from Burundi who booked their place in Egypt at the detriment of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon. Olivier Niyugenko’s men made sure of their qualification with a 1-1 draw at the Prince Louis Rwgasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Cedric Amissi got Burundi’s goal at the 76th minute before his teammate Omar Ngando scored an own goal for the Gabonese at the 82nd minute. Gabon with eight points will draw the lessons from a campaign marred by lots of managerial problems.
Algeria and Benin took the available tickets in the group. In the absence of inspirational leader Stephane Sessegnon, coach Michel Dusseyer and Benin turned to Niort striker David Djigla who got their opener at the 13th minute against Togo. The Togolese equalized through the evergreen Emmanuel Adebayor but Huddersfield striker Thomas Mounie got the vital winner for the Squirrels at 84th minute. Benin qualified for the AFCON for the fourth time. Claude LeRoy’s Togo finished bottom of the group with five points. Though already qualified, Algeria had a difficult game at home against Gambia. Algeria’s Mehdi Abeid gave them the lead at the 42nd minute, but the Dijon midfielder’s goal was leveled at the 90th minute by Gambia’s Malaysian Premier League defender Mamadou Danso. Gambia earned 6points to finish third behind group winners Algeria on 11points and Benin on 10points.
1996 champions South Africa had to dig very deep to get a win against Libya in Sfax Tunisia. The Libyans came into this game 2points less than their opponents in second place with 9points. A draw would have seen the South Africans through but Stuart Baxter’s men got all three points thanks to a brace from 25 years old striker Percy Tau. The Brighton and Hove Albion striker on loan to Union St-Gallois in the Belgian second tier got the first at the 50th minute before getting their winner 19 minutes later after the Libyans equalized from the penalty spot through Ahmed Benali at the 66th minute.
Nigeria made sure of top spot with a 3-1 win against minors Seychelles Island. Gernot Rohr’s men opened the scoring from the penalty spot through Odion Ighalo. 27 years old Seychelles defender Roddy Melanie equalized at the 41st minute before goals from Galatasaray midfielder Henry Onyekuru and Levante winger Moses Daddy-Ajala Simon handed the Super Eagles the win that took their points tally to 13, just enough to win the group ahead of South Africa on 12.
Ghana and Kenya had already qualified from Group F before their meeting at the Ohene Djan Stadium in Ghana. The Black Stars earned a difficult 1-0 win thanks to a goal from their Leeds United striker on loan to Trabzonspor in Turkey Caleb Ansah Ekuban who was introduced at the 62nd minute to replace Emmanuel Boateng by coach Kwesi Appiah. The win takes Ghana to the top of the group with 9points, two more than Kenya in second place.
Ethiopia with one point and suspended Sierra Leone with no point complete the group standings.
Zimbabwe and DRC made sure of qualification with home wins. A highly motivated Liberian delegation to Kinshasa was deflated by Cedric Bakambu’s 52nd minute strike. Coach Charles Kohl’s Liberia put up a good fight but Florent Ibenge’s men wanted a place for Egypt more.
In the other game in the group, Zimbabwe did not tremble at home against Congo Brazzaville. Two first half strikes from Kaizer Chief’s midfielder Khama Billiat and the qualifiers top scorer Knowledge Musona settled Zimbabwean nerves. Musona who plays his professional football for Belgian club Lokeren got his fifth goal in the qualifiers for Sunday Chinzamdga’s men. Zimbabwe on 11points and DRC on 9 qualified from a group in which all four teams went into the weekend’s fixtures with a chance to qualify.
Already qualified Guinea Conakry traveled to the Central African Republic to face coach Raoul Savoys team. Naby Keita and his teammates earned a 0-0 draw that consolidated their place as group winners. Coach Paul Put’s Guinea Conakry will be serious outsiders in the competition in three months.
Côte D’Ivoire made sure of second place with an emphatic 3-0 win against coach Vincent Mashami’s Rwanda. Lille striker Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring before Manchester United defender Eric Bailly made it two. Ibrahim Kamara’s men got their third through Lyon striker Maxwell Cornet. The Ivorians finished on a 11 points, one less than group winners Guinea Conakry.
Angola joint Mauritania to qualify from Group I after a 0-1 win against Botswana in Gaborone. Wilson Eduardo’s 22nd minute goal was all they needed to earn all three point. Burkina Faso kept their hopes of qualifying alive when they beat already qualified Mauritania 1-0. Bertrand Traoré’s wonder strike turned out to be just a mere consolation as results did not go their way in Botswana’s game against Angola. They were eliminated with 10points which is the highest for any team that did not qualify.
Angola wins the group though they have the 12points just like Mauritania in second.
Egypt and Tunisia had already qualified before this round of fixtures from group J. Egypt though with 12points were sure to play given that they had just won the hosting rights of the competition after it was taken from Cameroon.
The Egyptians traveled to Niamey to face an already eliminated but spirited Niger. Former Cotonsport of Garoua goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly and his teammates played for pride and earned a deserved 1-1 against the seven time champions. Javier Aguirre’s men drew first blood through the Kasimpasa striker Trezeguet, Francois Zahoui’s team replied through Amadou Moutari.
Tunisia claimed a prestigious group with a 4-0 humiliation of Eswantini. Goals from Syam Ben Youcef, Arnice Badri, Niam Sliti and Yassine Mariah handed Tunisia the win that took their points tally to 15, two more than Egypt.
In one of the most contested groups, Guinea-Bissau and Namibia booked their places at the detriment of Mozambique and 2012 winners Zambia. Coach Ricardo Mannetti’s Brave Warriors of Namibia lost to Zambia 4-1 but still booked their place on the flight to Egypt because results elsewhere went in their favour. A brace from Augustine Mulenga and goals from Donashano Malama and Lazarus Kambole were all intended to spoil the party for the Namibians who got their lone goal in the game through Peter Shalulile. However the Namibians still celebrated a place in Africa’s first 24 teams AFCON after Guinea-Bissau’s 2-2 draw with Coach Abel Xavier’s Mozambique. Guinea-Bissau opened the scoring at the 13th minute through their Al-Shoula of Saudi Arabia right back Piqueti Djassi Brito Silva. Mozambique equalized at the 48th minute through Stanley Ratifo and to an 89th minute lead through Nelson Divrasonne. But Federic Mendy got a 90th minute equalizer for Baciro Cande’s men. That draw means Guinea-Bissau tops the group with 9points while Namibia and Mozambique both have 8points but the Namibians go through based on their head-to-head advantage over Mozambique. Zambia tails the group on 7points.
Uganda had imposed their superiority in this group from start. With an eight points gap before their game against Emmanuel Amunike’s Tanzania, the Cranes were not in any danger of qualifying before traveling to Dar es Salaam. With a place for Egypt 2019 at stake, the Taifa Stars rallied for a much wanted win and scored three goals with no reply from their visitors. Simon Msuwa got the opener at the 21st minute before Erasto Nyoni converted a penalty at the 51st minute to give them a two goals cushion. Aggrey Moris made victory sure with a third goal at the 57th minute.
In the other game of the group, the Cape Verde Islands were held to a 0-0 draw by Lesotho. Uganda on 13points and Tanzania on eight qualify from the group while Lesotho on 6points and Cape Verde on 5 can only draw the lessons and hope for a place in Cameroon 2021.
With all 24 teams now known, this is time for meticulous preparations. The draws will be made on April 12, 2019 so that teams can begin specific preparations based on the strength and weaknesses of their opponents in their respective groups.