Unheralded Central African Republic and Niger continued a series of shock results in the African Nations Cup qualifiers on Sunday to keep up their hopes of clinching unlikely places in next year’s finals.
Niger’s 2-1 win over South Africa and a home draw for Central African Republic with Morocco meant both countries, with little previous pedigree in the game, are one win away from a first-ever appearance at the continental championship.
Kofi Dankwa’s 10th minute header and a close-in tap-in just after half-time from Moussa Maazou, Niger’s only European-based professional, ensured a 2-1 win over South Africa in Niamey and elevation to the top place in Group G.
Niger, who have a 100 percent home record, have a one-point lead over Sierra Leone and South Africa but must now keep up their giant-killing run with an away victory over eliminated Egypt in October to make sure of winning the group
South Africa, who had not conceded a goal in four previous qualifiers, are still favourites to finish top as they host Sierra Leone in the last round of matches next month, but Niger could still go to the finals as one of two best runners-up.
The same applies to Central African Republic, who had won just a single Nations Cup qualifier in four decades of participation before the start of the 2012 preliminaries.
They share top place in Group D with Morocco, both on eight points, with one game to go.
Sunday’s results continued a year of upsets which have seen defending champions Egypt eliminated and former winners Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Tunisia all in danger of missing out on the finals next January.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles helped their cause with a 2-0 away win in Madagascar but are still three points behind Guinea in Group B.
Veteran centre back Bobo Balde scored just after the half hour as Guinea beat Ethiopia 1-0 in Conakry.
Uganda needed only a point from their away match in Angola to qualify for the first time since 1978 but lost 2-0 to second-half goals from Manucho and Flavio.
Previously unbeaten Uganda, with 10 points from five games, are still one point clear of Angola at the top of Group J and can qualify with a win at home to neighbours Kenya in their final match next month.
Ramadhan Agab scored 13 minutes from time to hand Sudan a 1-0 away win against Congo in Brazzaville that saw them join Ghana at the top of Group I, which will be decided when last year’s World Cup quarter-finalists visit Khartoum next month.
Zambia went one point above Libya in Group C after winning 2-1 in the Comoros Islands. Zambia host Libya in their final group game next month.
Along with co-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Senegal have already qualified.
The last round of qualifiers will be played on the weekend of October 7-9. (Editing by Brian Homewood; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)