Egypt’s hopes all but gone, Ivory Coast qualifies
Egypt’s hopes of defending its title at next year’s African Cup
of Nations are all but gone after the seven-time continental
champion was held to a damaging 0-0 draw at home by South Africa in
qualifying on Sunday.
Egypt – which has won Africa’s top football tournament three
times in a row – is now almost certain to fail to qualify for the
first time in 33 years.
Egypt remains bottom of its group, six points off leader South
Africa with two games to go and with little chance of making Gabon
and Equatorial Guinea in 2012 – even as one of the two best
Ivory Coast has qualified after a 6-2 win for Didier Drogba’s
team away at Benin. Ivory Coast is the second country – after
surprise package Botswana – to claim one of the 14 finals places on
offer in Africa’s 44-team qualifying competition.
There were 14 games across the continent on Sunday as the
competition passed the halfway mark.
A late equalizer by captain Joseph Yobo rescued a point for
Nigeria in Ethiopia, Sudan won to keep the pressure on top-ranked
African team Ghana, Libya was held to a surprise 1-1 draw by
Comoros and under-pressure Tunisia beat Chad 5-0 to revive its
A desperate Egypt’s Group G fixture with South Africa was moved
to a military stadium in Cairo because of the threat of crowd
trouble, due to the African champion’s disastrous form and recent
sectarian violence in the city.
In a tense match with few clear-cut chances, South Africa
defended for long spells to claim a valuable point for their own
hopes – leaving Egypt still winless and on the brink of a shock
The Pharaohs last failed to qualify for the African championship
in 1978 and have dominated the tournament over the past five
Egypt coach Hassan Shehata did not attend the official
post-match press conference, increasing speculation the 2006, 2008
and 2010 Cup of Nations-winning coach will leave his job after
seven years in charge.
South Africa – which played without injured captain and
playmaker Steven Pienaar – leads the group by two points from
”I’m happy with this result because we drew with the champions
of Africa in Cairo,” South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane said.
Four days after a surprise 4-1 win over Argentina – which is
being investigated by FIFA for match-fixing links – Nigeria needed
Yobo’s late goal to rally to a 2-2 draw away at Ethiopia in Group
Despite first-half dominance from Ethiopia – under Belgian coach
Tom Santfiet for the first time – Ikechukwu Uche put Nigeria ahead
in the 26th minute.
A double by Saladin Said then had the home team leading before
Yobo rescued a point for Nigeria, which had played two games in
five days and looked fatigued after arriving in Addis Ababa at 2
a.m. on the day of the match.
”We didn’t play like we were supposed to,” Nigeria coach
Samson Sia said. ”We made too many mistakes.”
Nigeria trails group leader Guinea by three points after the
Guineans beat Madagascar 4-1 at home.
Drogba and Gervinho both scored twice as Ivory Coast improved
its perfect record to four wins in four matches to seal its place
at the next Cup of Nations.
Ivory Coast raced 3-0 ahead in Benin inside 30 minutes through
Didier Ya Konan, Drogba and Gervinho. Benin staged a brief
second-half fightback, pulling back to 3-2, but the Ivorians were
too strong. Burundi’s victory over Rwanda in the other Group H
fixture meant Ivory Coast can’t be caught at the top.
Botswana – which had already qualified – drew 0-0 at home with
Malawi and Tunisia’s comprehensive home win over Chad pushes the
Tunisians ahead of Malawi on goal difference in a tight race for
the second qualifying place in the five-team Group K.
Issam Jemaa hit a hattrick for 2004 African Cup winner Tunisia
to inspire victory.
Libya missed the chance to reclaim top spot in Group C when it
drew with Comoros and Mali fell to a 2-1 defeat against Group A
opponent Zimbabwe in a dramatic finish.
The Zimbabweans were awarded a last-minute penalty in Harare,
which sparked a mass brawl and red card for Mali’s Mahamadou
Diarra. Knowledge Musona scored with a retaken spot-kick and
Zimbabwe stole victory in a match it had to win to keep its hopes
Elsewhere, Congo won in Mauritius, Sudan edged Swaziland 2-1 to
join Ghana at the top of Group I and Angola beat Kenya 1-0.
Central African Republic surprised Tanzania 2-1 in an
extra-tight Group D, where Morocco leads on goal difference after
its 4-0 hammering of Algeria – one of six games on Saturday.
But Central African Republic – which is ranked 113 in the world
and has never been to the Cup of Nations – is just behind after a
fairytale qualifying run which has also included a win over World
Cup finalist Algeria.
Associated Press Writers Luc van Kemenade in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia and Ahmed El-Sedawy in Cairo contributed to this
Gerald Imray can be reached at