AFCON Qualifiers: Madagascar Make Historic Qualification
Madagascar has qualified for the African Cup of Nations finals for the first time by beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in Vontovorona.
Thailand-based midfielder Njiva Rakotoharimalala, 26, scored the only goal.
They became the first team to qualify for a place in the finals that have now been expanded from 16 teams to 24.
They were later joined by Egypt and Tunisia in qualifying for the finals in Cameroon next June and July.
Madagascar’s win moved them to 10 points in Group A with two matches left to play.
The game was played in Vontovorona after Madagascar were banned from using the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo for “three matches or three months”.
The suspension was imposed by the Confederation of Africa Football following a stampede at the national stadium in September when one person was killed and nearly 40 others were injured.
Madagascar becomes the 40th different nation to qualify for the Nations Cup finals.
Senegal left it late to get the win they needed in Sudan to clinch a place in the finals alongside Madagascar from the group.
Lorient’s Sidi Sarr scoring in the 86th minute just three minutes after coming on in Khartoum as a substitute.
Egypt and Tunisia helped each other to qualify for next year’s expanded finals as they both won in Group J.
Egypt secured a 2-0 win over eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) thanks to a header from Ahmed Hegazi after 19 minutes and a well-worked team goal finished by Marwan Mohsen early in the second half.
The Pharaohs’ qualification was confirmed later on Tuesday as Tunisia maintained their 100% winning record with a 2-1 victory over Niger 2-1 in Niamey.
Sfaxien’s Firas Chaouat scored two goals in a four-minute period in the first half on his international debut for Tunisia.
Niger’s Youssef Oumarou grabbed what turned out to be a consolation for the hosts.
There were two drawn matches in Group B as Comoros grabbed a 2-2 draw against visiting Morocco and Malawi held Cameroon to a goalless draw in Blantyre.
El Fardou Ben Mohamed, who plays for Serbian side Red Star Belgrade, opened the scoring after just eight minutes to give Comoros a shock lead.
The Moroccans then fought back with two second-half goals from Khalid Boutaib and Nordin Amrabat to take the lead.
The hosts kept battling and Ben Mohamed was on target again in injury time to earn a point for Comoros.
The results mean that Cameroon top the group with eight points, but they qualify automatically as hosts, leaving just one more place up for grabs from the group.
Morocco leads the way in the race to the finals on seven points, Malawi move to four points and Comoros are on two – with all the teams having played four matches.
Three teams remain in contention to qualify from Group C after Gabon beat hosts South Sudan 1-0 and Burundi held visiting Mali to a 1-1 draw.
Midfielder Andre Biyogo Poko, who plays in Turkey for Goztepe, won the match for Gabon with a goal five minutes after half-time.
Gabon played without Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he did not travel with the team to Juba. No official reason has been given for his absence.
Burundi took the lead in Bujumbura through striker Fiston Abdul Razak before Mamadou Fofana levelled the score for the visitors.
Algeria missed out on the chance of qualifying from Group D as they lost 1-0 in Benin.
The match-winner was scored by Sessi D’Almeida, who plays in the fourth tier of English football with Yeovil Town, after 16 minutes.
Benin held on for the win despite playing the final 35 minutes of the match with 10 men after veteran Stephane Sessegnon was shown a red card.
Togo managed to take advantage of Algeria’s slip with a late 1-0 win in The Gambia – Fulham’s Floyd Ayite with the winner in injury time.
Guinea and Ivory Coast remain the favourites to qualify from Group H despite both being held to away draws.
Ivory Coast was held to a goalless draw in Bangui by the Central African Republic while in Kigali it was 1-1 between Rwanda and Guinea.
Guinea took the lead in the first-half by Jose Kante but Jacques Tuyisenge ensured the points were shared with a late equaliser.
The Syli Nationale had to play the second half without Liverpool’s Naby Keita, who had to be helped from the pitch with an injury.
Wins for both Guinea and Ivory Coast would have taken both teams through to next year’s finals.