CAPE TOWN (Reuters): Guinea became the latest side to seal their place at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ivory Coast when they qualified without kicking a ball on Tuesday as Malawi were held to a 0-0 draw by Ethiopia.
The result in neutral Maputo means Guinea cannot be overhauled in second place in qualification Group D when the final round of matches are played in September. Egypt head the pool with 12 points, followed by Guinea with nine. Malawi and Ethiopia both have four.
The top two sides in each group will play in the 24-team finals that will be staged from Jan. 13-Feb. 11 next year. Namibia were hoping to seal their place too but slipped to a 3-2 loss to Burundi in neutral Dar es Salaam and now face an anxious wait to learn their fate having completed their fixtures in the three-team Group C.
Burundi raced into a 3-0 lead inside 19 minutes as Abedi Bigirimana, Caleb Bimenyimana and Hussein Shabani provided an electric start. Namibia pulled two goals back through Peter Shalulile and Wendell Rudath, which could yet be crucial in the final qualification equation.
Namibia lead the pool with five points, ahead of Cameroon and Burundi, who both have four. The latter two will meet in the final fixture in Yaounde in September.
A win for either side and they will qualify with Namibia, while a draw would leave all three teams on five points and an even goal-difference. The tie-breaker would therefore be goals scored.
Here the equation also favours Namibia as they have netted six times in their four games, while Burundi have four goals and Cameroon three. The only way Namibia will not qualify is in a very high-scoring draw.
Mauritania cruised to a 3-0 win against Sudan in Group I as they shot from the bottom to the top of a tight pool where all four teams remain in contention for finals qualification. Mauritania (eight points) host Gabon (seven) in their final fixture in September, while Sudan (six) go to DR Congo (seven).
Nations who have already qualified for the finals are hosts Ivory Coast, holders Senegal, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia.