JOHANNESBURG: Nigeria and South Africa both missed out on next year’s African Cup of Nations after disappointing and contrasting draws in Saturday’s round of qualifying games.
Ibrahima Diallo’s late equalizer in Abuja saw Guinea rally for a 2-2 draw against Nigeria while South Africa prematurely celebrated its 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone wrongly thinking it had advanced.
Both teams joined an impressive list of absentees that included fellow former champions Egypt and Cameroon, while Tunisia is the only one of the last of nine African champions to reach next year’s continental championship.
In a dramatic – and in South Africa’s case farcical – penultimate day of qualifying for the African Cup, Mali, Guinea, Zambia, Niger, Ghana and Angola went through as group winners and Libya clinched one of the two spots for the best second-placed teams.
Despite a 3-0 loss at Egypt, Niger reached its first African Cup of Nations and major tournament for the first time after emerging from the Group G tie between it, South Africa and Sierra Leone with the better head-to-head points total.
Those countries joined co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and already-qualified Botswana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Burkina Faso at the 16-team tournament set to take place in January and February.
In Nelspruit, South Africa thought it was through on goal difference and Bafana Bafana players celebrated with dancing in front of fans and a lap of honor as coach Pitso Mosimane hugged members of his technical team. But Niger took the automatic spot through the tiebreaker after all three finished locked on nine points.
“Did we qualify? What do you think?” Mosimane said as confusion reigned. “If we’ve qualified I’m very happy. I don’t know.”
Niger players, meanwhile, didn’t celebrate even though it finally reached its first African Cup of Nations after 41 years of trying.
Four-time African champion Ghana beat Sudan 2-0
Category: Africa News