March 26 – Comoros and the Gambia will debut at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations following stellar campaigns in their qualifying groups.
Gambia ensured their maiden participation in the continental finals with a 1-0 victory over Angola. In a match played behind closed doors, Assan Cessay’s goal in the 62nd minute was enough for the hosts to secure a vital three points and qualification, alongside Gabon who defeated DR Congo 3-0.
The team of Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet had to progress from the preliminaries to play in the main draw, where they were grouped in pot 5. The Scorpions had been given little chance of making the finals, but, crucially, they defeated Gabon at home in November to remain in contention.
Earlier on Thursday, the Comoros had already made history by securing their debut appearance following a goalless draw against Togo at home. The Comoros are an archipelago of volcanic islands off the east coast of Africa and one of the continent’s smallest countries in Africa with a population of less than a million. However, they proved their worth under coach Amir Abdou, achieving victories against both Togo and Kenya and drawing 1-1 with continental heavyweights Egypt.
Ghana, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea also booked their places for Cameroon. They will join Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Tunisia and hosts, who had already qualified for the tournament in January. Ten slots for the 24-team finals remain to be decided.
In Friday’s pick of the matches, Morocco will try to guarantee their ticket in Group E at home to Mauritania, who themselves remain in pole position to secure second spot behind the team of coach Vahid Halilhodžić. In Group K, the Ivory Coast can’t afford to slip up against Niger in Niamey. Joint-second with Madagascar on seven points, they trail leaders Ethiopia by two points. On Tuesday, the Ivorians will host Ethiopia in their final group game.
Cameroon had been due to host Africa’s flagship tournament in January and February, but the finals were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618301951labto1618301951ofdlr1618301951owedi1618301951sni@o1618301951fni1618301951