Algeria, Cape Verde book first places at AFCON in qualifying

Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo in action for Cameroon against Sierra Leone

Algeria and Cape Verde became the first two teams to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations as they guaranteed top-two finishes in their groups with wins late Wednesday.

Algeria, which made the last 16 at the World Cup, extended its record to four wins from four games in final qualifying by beating Malawi 3-0 at home.

Cape Verde made its debut at the Cup of Nations last year, and will be going to a second straight tournament after a late goal by Heldon Ramos sealed a 1-0 win over Mozambique.

Cameroon closed in on qualification with a 2-0 win over Sierra Leone.

Group D rival Ivory Coast lost 4-3 at home to Congo to slip out of the qualifying places for next year’s continental championship.

Cameroon secured a third win in four games in the final qualifying stage through early goals by Leonard Kweuke and Stephane Mbia in Yaounde, while Ivory Coast’s surprise defeat saw it drop out of the top two in the group.

Defending African champion Nigeria secured its first win in final qualifying by beating Sudan 3-1 in Group A, helped by a double from Ahmed Musa. Ghana also won to stay top of Group E and 2012 Cup of Nations winner Zambia dragged itself into contention with a first win in Group F.

Record seven-time champion Egypt beat Botswana 2-0 at home for a second straight win in Group G to move third behind Senegal and Tunisia and into the very last qualifying place as the best third-place team.

The top two teams from each of the seven groups qualify for next year’s African Cup alongside the best third-place finisher and host Morocco. As the groups stand with two rounds of games to go, Yaya Toure’s Ivory Coast and last year’s winner Nigeria would be the biggest teams to miss out.

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Cameroon looks set to claim its place in Morocco early next year after Kweuke and Mbia scored within seven minutes against Sierra Leone. The Cameroonians moved four points clear in their group following Ivory Coast’s shock defeat in a seven-goal contest in Abidjan.

Ghana strengthened its position with a 3-1 win over Guinea, with Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu all scoring to give the Black Stars a boost under stand-in coach Maxwell Konadu.

"The boys played their hearts out. Hard work is what paid off," Konadu said.

Togo won 1-0 at home over Uganda with a late goal by defender Serge Akakpo to move second behind Ghana, two points back.

In Group F, Cape Verde and Zambia hold the qualifying positions, with Zambia jumping into contention with a 3-0 win at home over Niger.

Egypt, which is the continent’s most successful team but hasn’t qualified for the last two African Cups, had second-half goals from Amr Gamal and Chelsea’s Mohamed Salah to beat Botswana 2-0.