No light in sight
Mali and Tunisia qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals on Tuesday to follow in the footsteps of title holders Algeria, Senegal and hosts Cameroon.
Another 19 places will be up for grabs during the final two matchdays between March 22 and 30 with record seven-time champions Egypt among those close to securing places.
Sekou Koita and Moussa Doumbia scored in Mali’s 2-1 win over Namibia in Windhoek, which clinched an eighth consecutive appearance at the African football showcase.
Tunisia will be going to the finals for a record-extending 15th consecutive time after drawing 1-1 with Tanzania in Dar es Salaam, where Saifeddine Khaoui gave them an early lead.
Neither Group A frontrunners Mali nor Group J pacesetters Tunisia are assured of winning their four-nation groups, but both are certain of top-two finishes and qualification.
Senegal clinched a place Sunday, Algeria did likewise Monday and Cameroon fill the slot automatically reserved for the host nation.
Aston Villa forward Mahmoud Trezeguet scored the final goal as Egypt romped to a 3-0 Group G win over Togo in Lome, with Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy and Mohamed Sherif also on the scoresheet.
Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech scored the first goal and created the second as Group E leaders Morocco won 2-0 against the Central African Republic, who had to stage the match in Cameroon because of security concerns.
After the dramatic four-goal comeback by Sierra Leone to force a 4-4 Group L draw in Nigeria last week, the reverse fixture provided little drama and ended 0-0 in Freetown.
A stoppage-time goal from Mohamed Abdelrahman gave Sudan a surprise 1-0 victory over Group C leaders Ghana, who were captained for the first time by Jordan Ayew, the Crystal Palace forward.
Injuries ruled out midfielders Andre Ayew and Thomas Partey, the first and second-choice skippers, and the next in line, goalkeeper Richard Ofori, was suspended.
Madagascar and the Ivory Coast remain joint Group K leaders after drawing 1-1 in Toamasina with a brilliant goal from Ibrahima Amada cancelling out a Franck Kessie penalty.
Ethiopia are just one point behind thanks to a 3-0 hammering of Niger in Addis Ababa with Amanuel Gebremichael, Mesud Mohammed and Getaneh Kebede the scorers.
The Democratic Republic of Congo narrowed the gap behind Group D front-runners Gambia and Gabon to a single point by defeating Angola 1-0 in Luanda.
Neeskens Kabano netted midway through the second half for the Congolese, who were crowned African champions in 1968 and 1974, but have not finished higher than third since.
Rwanda drew 0-0 with Cape Verde in Kigali to hold the unwanted record of being the only one of the 48 nations involved in qualifying not to have scored after four matchdays.
But there was some satisfaction at collecting a second point in Group F as they had to play 61 minutes with 10 men after Ally Niyonzima was sent off.
Benin remained one point behind Nigeria, and on course for a second straight Cup of Nations appearance, by drawing 0-0 with Lesotho in Maseru.