Three more countries sealed their places at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Saturday as Mozambique secured qualification with a dramatic 95th minute winner.
Mauritania and the Democratic Republic of Congo also booked a spot at next year’s finals but there was disappointment for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as his Gabon side missed out on a place in Ivory Coast.
Three spots remain for Afcon which kicks off in Ivory Coast on 13 January.
Mozambique sealed their return to the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010 thanks to a late 3-2 win over Benin in Maputo in Group L.
The Mambas knew a draw would be enough against a Benin side who needed a victory to qualify.
Benin started the better, taking a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to a Steve Mounie penalty.
The hosts quickly fought back with goals from Witi and Ricardo Guimaraes to go 2-1 up but Benin made it a nervous end for the home fans, finding an equaliser through Jodel Dossou.
As the visitors searched for a winner, Mozambique made sure of their place with a 95th minute goal from Clesio Bauque to complete a 3-2 victory. Mozambique join holders Senegal as qualifiers from Group L.
Aubameyang’s Gabon miss out
Two places were on offer from Group I with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania sealing qualification at the expense of Sudan and Gabon respectively.
Mauritania’s home game against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon in Nouakchott proved a tempestuous affair with red cards for both teams.
Gabon’s had to play most of the game with 10 men after goalkeeper Jean Noel Amonome was sent off for violent conduct in the fifth minute.
Goals from Hemeya Tanjy and Aboubakar Kamara gave the hosts a comfortable 2-0 lead until El Hassan Houbeib was sent off for Mauritania for a second booking late in the match.
Didier Ndong clawed one back for Gabon in the 91st minute but Mauritania held on to seal their place in Ivory Coast and deny Aubameyang, who returned to the Gabon set-up in May having retired from international football a year earlier.
DR Congo finished top of Group I thanks to a 2-0 win over Sudan in Kinshasa. Theo Bongonda scored after eight minutes with Fiston Mayele adding a second late on.
It led to the postponement of Morocco’s Group K clash with Liberia.
Sunday’s decisive Group G game between The Gambia and Congo Brazzaville in Marrakech will go ahead.
More crucial games will take place up until 12 September as nations – including Cameroon – look to secure their place at the 24-team tournament – with a total of 21 teams now already through.
Saturday’s three qualifiers join Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, DR Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia at the finals alongside Ivory Coast, who qualified automatically as hosts.
The Elephants ended their Group H campaign with a 1-0 home win over Lesotho – Ibrahim Sangare of Nottingham Forest scoring off a Sebastien Haller assist.
The Nations Cup is scheduled to begin on 13 January 2024, with the final taking place on 11 February.