Mozambique started its Africa Cup of Nations soccer qualifying campaign in fine style with an impressive 5-0 victory over competition debutants South Sudan last Sunday.
South Sudan, which became an independent state in 2011, was no match for their opponents, who led 3-0 at halftime.
The return match takes place in Khartoum because of ongoing civil unrest in South Sudan.
Meantime, host country Madagascar upset Uganda – which is ranked 100 places above them in the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) tanking – 2-1.
Malawi also started strongly, shutting out Chad 2-0. Frank Mhango, who plays for Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa, scored both goals in the first half.
Despite the loss, Chad’s coach Emmanuel Tregoat is confident his side can rebound at home in the return tie.
“I think we can win 2-0 or more,” he said. “It’s not finished for us.”
Malawi coach Young Chimodzi has promised his team will not sit back and try to defend its two-goal advantage.
“We will devise a plan for how we can approach the game because what we need is to get a goal,” he said. “If we get a goal, then we are safe and that’s what we are aiming for. We are not just going to go out there and defend and defend.”
The winner of the tie will meet either Benin or São Tomé and Príncipe. Benin, inspired by West Bromwich Albion striker Stephane Sessegnon, who scored twice in the last 10 minutes, won 2-0 on the road in Sao Tome.
In other first-round ties last weekend, Mauritania and Namibia shut out Equatorial Guinea and Congo respectively 1-0, Swaziland and Sierra Leone drew 1-1, Libya and Rwanda played to a goalless draw, Kenya beat Comoros 1-0, Tanzania registered a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe, Burundi and Botswana failed to record a goal in their meeting as did the Central Africa Republic and Guinea-Bissau.
The return games will be held from May 30 to June 1.
The winners will advance to the second round for another series of two-legged contests to be played from July 18-20 and August 1-3. The winners will then advance to the group stage.
Defending champions Nigeria are in Group “A” with 1970 champions Sudan, 1996 title holders South Africa and the winners of the Namibia vs. Congo Brazzaville and Libya vs. Rwanda contests. Group “B” comprises 1962 host champions Ethiopia, Mali and Algeria along with the winners of the São Tomé and Príncipe vs. Benin and Malawi vs. Chad winners, while the Group “C” teams are Burkina Faso, Gabon, Angola and the winners of the Liberia vs. Lesotho and Kenya vs. Comoros Islands games.
The Group “D” contestants are Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, four-time champions Cameroon and the winners of the Sierra Leone vs. Swaziland and Gambia vs. Seychelles matches; three-time champions Ghana, Guinea, Togo and the Uganda vs. Madagascar and Equatorial Guinea vs. Mauritania winners will meet in Group “E” and the Group “F” teams are Zambia, Niger, Cape Verde Islands and the Tanzania vs. Zimbabwe and Mozambique vs. South Sudan winners.
“The Group “G” competitors are seven-time winners Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal and the Burundi vs. Botswana and Central African Republic vs. Guinea Bissau winners.
The top two countries in each group plus the best third-place finisher will qualify for the finals along with host country Morocco.
The group matches will take place on September 5, 6 and 10; October 10, 11 and 15 and November 14, 15 and 19 this year.
The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco will be held from January 17 to February 8.