Two quick fire goals saw the end of Zimbabwean hopes, despite Cuthbert Malajila’s late strike, but it was even worse as Mali were held 2-2 by Liberia. The Warriors had needed group leaders Mali not to win and they will now rue their missed opportunity.
Consolation for Zimbabwe was the fact that continental powerhouses Nigeria and South Africa also failed to qualify. Nigeria failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 1986 after a last-minute goal from Guinea saw them draw their final qualifier 2-2.
“We want to apologise to all Nigerians. We have not qualified for the Nations Cup and we take responsibility as a team,” coach Samson Siasia said.
“We did our best, we dominated the game, we created chances, but we failed to take our chances and we gave up a last minute goal. We understand the frustration of the fans because they love their team so much. But sometimes, football can be cruel.”
South Africa suffered heartbreak after thinking they were through following a 0-0 draw with Sierra Leone. Bafana Bafana celebrated at the end of the game as Niger lost 3-0 to Egypt, but the record in Group G favoured Niger and they progress to the finals for the first time.
Egypt, the winners of the ANC, were already out having lost three of their six games, but the other three teams finished on nine points each. Instead of head-to-head record (which would have seen South Africa through), CAF used a mini-league between the three of them, of which Niger came top.
Meanwhile Ghana maintained their unbeaten record in qualifying to finish three points ahead of opponents Sudan and claim top spot in Group I. Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan opened the scoring early on, before skipper John Mensah doubled the lead in the 21st minute to finish the game off.
Midfielder Isaac Vorsah was sent off for an off the ball incident after the break, but ten-man the Black Stars held on to record a 2-0 victory and seal their progress.
Tunisia had to rely on a huge stroke of luck, but qualified behind Botswana as they beat ten-man Togo 2-0 and Chad grabbed a last-minute 2-2 draw with Malawi.
Goals from Walid Hichri and Saber Khelifa gave the Carthage Eagles the best chance of making it to the finals – in a group that has two guaranteed qualifiers thanks to having five teams – but it was a last-gasp equaliser from Chad in N’Djamena that saw them progress.
Angola made sure of their place as they beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 thanks to goals from Manucho and Mateus. However, they also needed to better the result of Uganda, which they did as the Ugandans were held to a 0-0 draw by Kenya in Kampala.
Zambia also sealed their place at the finals despite being held to a 0-0 draw by Libya in Chingola.
Libya needed to rely on their defensive efforts to keep the tie goalless, with 39-year-old goalkeeper Samir Aboud in excellent form, while Zambia also hit the woodwork twice. A point was enough for Zambia though, while their North African rivals also go through as one of the best runners-up.
A number of games had no impact on qualifying, as the teams involved were already unable to seal a place in the final tournament. Mozambique beat minnows Comoros 3-0, while Ethiopia coach Tom Saintfiet picked up his first win for the country – 4-2 over Madagascar. Swaziland and Congo also played out a 0-0 draw.
In the last game of the day, Burkina Faso scored a late goal to draw 1-1 with Gambia in Banjul as they finished well on top of Group F, although doubt still hangs over their participation in the final tournament.
For the last automatic place, Algeria take on the Central African Republic on Sunday, while Morocco also face Tanzania in the same Group D. Any one of the four teams could qualify, with Sudan also possible qualifiers as the second-best runners-up if the results fall their way.
Teams who have qualified for the African Nations Cup (+2 more): Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso*, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea, Zambia, Angola, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Libya (best runner-up).
- Facing possible legal action over the alleged use of an unqualified player vs Namibia which could see them thrown out of the tournament. ESPN/Staff Reporter