Cape Verde and Algeria are the first countries to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament.
An island nation off the West African coast, Cape Verde shut out Mozambique 1-0 last week to move four points clear of Zambia and Mozambique in their group, while 1990 champions Algeria defeated Malawi 3-0 to remain the only unbeaten team in the qualifying series with the maximum 12 points from four matches.
Mali, which lost 3-2 to Ethiopia, is in second place in the group with six points while the Ethiopians – they played the last half-hour with just 10 men while avenging their loss to Mali four days earlier – and Malawi are at the bottom of the group with three points.
Defending champions Nigeria registered a decisive 3-1 victory over Sudan to keep its hopes alive of advancing to the biennial championship.
In achieving its first win in four matches, the six-time champions are in third place in its group behind South Africa, which missed a golden opportunity to secure a spot in the finals after being held to a goalless draw at home by Congo.
South Africa heads the group with eight points, followed by Congo which is a point behind.
The Nigerians will need at least a victory in its remaining qualifiers against Congo on the road on November 15 and at home against South Africa four days later to advance to the finals. They will also play those games with a new coach after Shaibu Amodu was chosen to replace Stephen Keshi, who was coaching the team without a contract.
The Nigerian Soccer Federation has revealed that a foreign full-time coach will be installed after the qualifying tournament.
Four-time champions Cameroon took a huge step in advancing to next year’s tournament with a comfortable 2-0 win over Sierra Leone.
Cameroon stands four points clear at the top of its group ahead of the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo and 1992 champions Ivory Coast. The Democratic People’s Republic of Congo shocked the Ivorians 4-3 last Wednesday to move into second place in its group by virtue of having netted more away goals in the matches involving the two teams.
Ghana, which has won the competition four times, seized control of its group by disposing of Guinea by a 3-1 margin. The Ghanaians complete their qualifying schedule against Uganda, which lost 1-0 to Togo last Wednesday and Togo, which is in second place in the group.
Gabon drew 1-1 with Burkina Faso to hold on to a two-point lead in its group, while Tunisia moved three points clear of Senegal with a 1-0 result over the West Africans.
The top two countries in each group plus the best third-place finisher will qualify for the finals along with host country Morocco. The finals take place from January 17 to February 8.
In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, Morocco has expressed concerns about hosting the tournament.
The Confederation of African Soccer (CAF) has said it will discuss the Moroccan Health Ministry’s apprehensions on November 2 before meeting with Moroccan soccer officials the following day.
Mohamed Ouzzine, the Moroccan Minister of Youth & Sports, has insisted that his country has not withdrawn as hosts.
“We however have to follow the lead of the World Health Organization which has advised against big gatherings in the fight against the Ebola outbreak,” he said. “Our concern is the health of Africa and based on WHO reports and guidelines, we have to listen. Zero safety does not exist, but one has to take the necessary precautions so that the coming tournament will be a soccer feast, bringing together our African brothers. But, given the current Ebola situation, we don’t think such a feast can take place as expected. We are talking about the Africa Cup of Nations where we are expecting between 200,000 to 400,000 or even one million spectators to converge in Morocco.”