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16 April 2024

Madagascar, Tunisia, Egypt qualify for Africa Cup of Nations

Njiva Rakotoharimalala (Getty Images)


Madagascar, for the first time, and former champions Tunisia and Egypt sealed places at the Africa Cup of Nations finals Tuesday.

Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored four minutes before half-time to earn Madagascar a 1-0 Group A victory over Equatorial Guinea on the huge Indian Ocean island.

Tunisia and record seven-time title-holders Egypt secured slots in Cameroon next June with away victories in Group J over Niger and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) respectively.

A Firas Chaout brace brought 2004 champions Tunisia a 2-1 win in Niamey and Ahmed Hegazy and Marwan Mohsen netted as Egypt cruised to a 2-0 victory in Manzini.

Victory lifted Madagascar to 10 points from four games and beyond the reach of Equatorial Guinea and Sudan in a four team mini-league from which the top two qualify.

It was the second 1-0 victory for the Malagasy over the Equatoguineans within four days after captain Faneva Ima Andriatsima scored the winner in central Africa last Saturday,

They qualified despite having to play a preliminary tie, which they won 4-2 on aggregate against Sao Tome e Principe, and being seeded last behind Senegal, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.

Senegal will also secure a place among the 24 finalists if they win away to pointless Sudan in a late kick-off.

Qualification for the Malagasy came after 18 failed attempts, with French coach Nicolas Dupuis' most common starting eleven made up of four players based in France, one each in Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, Reunion, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, and one local.

After Chaout netted twice within four minutes, Youssef Oumarou pulled one goal back before half-time for Niger, who could not prevent Tunisia maintaining their perfect record.

Hegazy used aerial strength

Egypt were far too good for eSwatini despite lacking injured star Mohamed Salah, who strained a thigh muscle during a win over the same opposition in Cairo last Friday.

Defender Hegazy used his aerial strength to nod the 'Pharaohs' in front on 19 minutes and Mohsen doubled the lead soon after half-time.

On a happy day for Indian Ocean island states, the Seychelles held South Africa 0-0 in Victoria and the Comoros snatched a late 2-2 draw with Morocco in Mitsamiouli.

Although neither the Seychellois nor the Comorans are contenders for places at the 24-nation finals, they will be encouraged by the results against much higher ranked rivals.

The Seychelles are 189th in the world, 116 places below South Africa, while the 149th-ranked Comoros are 104 places lower than Morocco.

El Fardou Ben Nabouhane from Red Star Belgrade put the Comorans ahead on eight minutes in Mitsamiouli and levelled in the final minute after Khalid Boutaib and Nordin Amrabat scored.

Cameroon, automatic qualifiers but playing in Group B to gain competitive match practice, drew 0-0 with Malawi in Blantyre to remain leaders with eight points, one ahead of Morocco.

After celebrating slamming six goals past the Seychelles in Johannesburg last Saturday, South Africa suffered the embarrassment of dropping two Group E points in Victoria.

Lebo Mothiba was foiled by the woodwork just after half-time and South African team-mate Percy Tau had a goal disallowed in a marginal offside decision soon after.

South Africa top Group E with eight points, but Nigeria can overtake them later Tuesday by defeating Libya.