South Sudan made history last weekend with its first international soccer victory while Mauritania shocked South Africa in the latest round of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Following its independence in July 2011 after a referendum, the landlocked country was admitted to the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) in May 2012 and played its first match two months later against Uganda.
Last Saturday, South Sudan shut out Equatorial Guinea at home in Juba to move into second place in its group behind Mali, which drew 1-1 with third-place Benin and Equatorial Guinea – a semi-finalist in this year’s tournament – which is winless in two matches.
South Africa slumped to the bottom of its group in the qualifying tournament with an embarrassing 3-1 defeat in Mauritania, which is ranked 42 places behind the 1996 champions.
Four-time champions Cameroon, which won its opening match against Mauritania, heads the group after a 1-0 win on the road in Gambia.
Liberia celebrated the Ebola ban lift by upsetting Tunisia – Africa’s fourth-ranked team – 1-0 in Monrovia. Francis Forkey Doe scored the game’s only goal in the 11th minute in wet conditions to provide his country with its first points in the group that includes Togo, which is the leader after a 2-0 victory over Djibouti last Friday.
Uganda, which almost missed its away contest with Comoros because of financial challenges before the country’s president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, delivered $210,000 to cover the team’s travel costs, prevailed 1-0 to record its second win in the group after shutting out Botswana 2-0 last June.
The 1978 runners-up are at the top of its table ahead of Botswana, which defeated Burkina Faso 1-0.
Africa’s top-ranked team, Algeria, defeated Lesotho 3-1 to maintain its unbeaten record in the group after pummelling Seychelles 4-0 last June.
Ethiopia trails by two points in the group after Seychelles held them to a 1-1 draw.
Egypt, which has won the regional tournament a record seven times and moved back into the top 50 ranked teams in the world in FIFA’s latest list, overwhelmed Chad 5-1 in N’Djamena to maintain its group lead ahead of three-time champions Nigeria, which was held to a goalless draw by Tanzania in Dar es Salaam.
Angola is also unbeaten after two matches following a nil-all draw with Madagascar, which is at the bottom of the group that includes the Central African Republic, which beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 to slide into second place in the group.
Congo and Zambia registered wins against Guinea-Bissau and Kenya, respectively, to lead their group while Cape Verde and Morocco are unbeaten in their cluster after 2-1 and 3-0 wins over Libya and Sao Tome & Principe, respectively.
Group leaders Swaziland drew 2-2 with second-place Malawi and Zimbabwe and Guinea played to a 1-1 tie while Senegal and Niger recorded 2-0 shutouts over Namibia and Burundi, respectively, to lead their group.
In the only Group “I” match, reigning champions Ivory Coast was held to a goalless draw by Sierra Leone.
The winners of the 13 groups, along with the two best-placed runners-up, excluding the group that consist hosts Gabon, which automatically qualifies, will contest the 16-team tournament in Gabon in 2017.
The West African country, which co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Equatorial Guinea, was selected ahead of Ghana and Algeria to host the next Africa Cup of Nations competition. Original hosts Libya withdrew last year because of civil unrest.