Friday , April 23 2021

Mauritania qualifies in another African Cup surprise

Mauritania qualified for its first major football tournament on Sunday when it beat Botswana to claim a place at next year's African Cup of Nations.

It was the second big surprise to qualify after Madagascar sealed a place on the African Cup for the first time last month.

Mauritania, a country in northwestern Africa almost covered by the Sahara desert, came behind to beat Botswana 2-1 with two goals ahead of Ismael Diakite.

That means that a nation that waited 17 years after its first international match for its first victory will finally play among the continent's best teams in June and July.

13 of 24 places that are set

Mauritania is one of 13 countries that has now qualified for an extended 24-team Cup of Nations host of Cameroon. Eight of them qualified this weekend, the second-round round, led by former champion Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco and Algeria.

Nigeria is back in the tournament – for the first time since it won the title 2013 – after a 1-1-row with South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday. A Nigerian state governor promised the team $ 25,000 for each goal in the crucial game, but one was enough because Nigeria secured the point needed to guarantee it one of the two qualifying places from the group.

Côte d'Ivoire, the African champion in 2015, was sure of his place despite an underwhelming qualification campaign when it took 1-1 in Guinea on Sunday. The result qualified both teams. Morocco's seat was confirmed after Malawi lost surprisingly 2-1 in the Comoros. It eliminated the Malawians and caused their federation manager Walter Nyamilandu, a newly elected member of the FIFA Council, to complain about the makeup of the Comoros squad. It's almost completely foreign-born players and Comoros goals against Malawi scored scores of French-born players El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and Nasser Chamed.

Nyamilandu claimed on Twitter that the comoros "buy citizenship to make a national team" and called it "immoral". However, there was no sign of an official protest of Malawi.

Algeria goes through after winning 4-1 in Togo, helped by two goals from Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez. Other teams qualifying this weekend were Mali and Uganda.


The war of Libya, which twice in the last five years had to back out to host the African Cup because of its civil war, still has the chance to qualify. Libya crushed Seychelles 8-1 and meets South Africa in a crucial game in the final round of qualifying in March to see who connects Nigeria to the African Cup from that group. Although it is a "home" game for Libya, the North Africans have not played home for five years because of the conflict, without holding their hometowns in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. Libya needs a victory while South Africa just needs to draw.

More surprises?

More debutants can join Madagascar and Mauritania next year, the first time the African Cup has expanded to 24 teams from its regular 16. Burundi needs to draw home in their final match against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Gabon to reach the final. Lesotho, the small country surrounded by South Africa, is still in conflict.

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