Mali and Tunisia added their names to the list of countries qualified for the next Africa Cup of Nations finals on Tuesday, joining holders Algeria and 2019 runners-up Senegal who had booked their berths over the last two days.
Mali made sure of a top two finish in Group A after a 2-1 win in Namibia, where Sekou Koita and Moussa Doumbia scored in the first half, while Tunisia’s 1-1 draw in Tanzania was enough to ensure they will finish in the top two in Group J.
Tunisia will go to the finals in Cameroon in 2022 for a 15th successive time.
Egypt and Morocco also moved closer to qualifying after producing positive performances on the road on Tuesday.
Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech was again a major influence as they won 2-0 away to the Central African Republic and are now a point off qualifying from Group E.
Ziyech’s 39th minute free kick sailed into the net from outside the box and, while team mate Nayef Aguerd claimed he got a faint touch, it looked as if the effort went straight in without any assistance and Ziyech was credited with the goal.
The new Chelsea signing then turned provider in a final minute breakaway, finished off by Youssef En Nesyri.
Egypt, who are seeking a record-extending 25th appearance at a Cup of Nations finals, are also on the cusp of qualifying in Group G after a 3-1 away win over Togo.
Ghana could have qualified but came unstuck against Sudan in Khartoum where Mohamed Abdelrahman scored in stoppage time for a 1-0 win to put the hosts back in contention for a top two place.
Ghana have nine points and share top spot in Group C with South Africa, while Sudan are only three points behind.
Nigeria were held for the second time in five days by Sierra Leone, this time a tepid 0-0 stalemate in Freetown in contrast to Sierra Leone’s thrilling comeback in last Friday’s 4-4 draw.
Nigeria top Group L by one point ahead of Benin, who drew 0-0 away to Lesotho earlier on Tuesday, while the other two countries have two points each.
Pacesetters Madagascar and Ivory Coast have seven points in Group K after their 1-1 draw in Antananarivo but Ethiopia are only one point behind having hammered visitors Niger 3-0.
Democratic Republic of Congo won 1-0 away to neighbours Angola in Luanda after Neeskens Kebano’s mazy run and accurate finish from outside the penalty area in the 63rd minute.
The result revived the Congolese chances of qualifying as they are now just a point behind Gambia and Gabon in Group D.
The last two rounds of preliminaries will be played in March. The top two in each group advance to the finals except in Group F where only the highest placed team besides Cameroon, qualified as hosts but playing in the preliminaries, qualifies.