CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) Atak Lual’s second-half goal gave South Sudan its first ever competitive victory as the world’s newest nation beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in African Cup of Nations qualifying on Saturday.
South Sudan’s success came three years after it was allowed to play international football, and boosts its chances of an even bigger shock: Qualifying for the continent’s championship in 2017.
Lual scored in the 52nd minute in Juba to stun Equatorial Guinea, a semifinalist at the African Cup it hosted this year.
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Elsewhere in the second round, Ghana needed a free kick three minutes from fulltime by Wakaso Mubarak to beat Rwanda. Nigeria was held to 0-0 in Tanzania in Sunday Oliseh’s first game as coach. Morocco beat Sao Tome and Principe 3-0, and a 10-man South Africa lost 3-1 in Mauritania.
The win for South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, delighted home fans in the capital. Lual’s winner put the South Sudanese level on points with group leader Mali, although Mali plays its second-round game against Benin on Sunday.
Equatorial Guinea, the surprise package at the Cup of Nations this year, is bottom of the group and looking like it will struggle to qualify for 2017.
South Sudan beating Equatorial Guinea, ranked over 100 places higher, was the biggest surprise on Saturday but not the only one.
Liberia celebrated its first game at home since being allowed to host soccer again after the Ebola outbreak by beating Tunisia 1-0, with Liberian fans braving heavy rain in Monrovia to welcome their team back. The fans were rewarded by Francis Doe’s winning goal in the 67th. Liberia goes level on points with Tunisia in second place in their group behind Togo, which beat Djibouti on Friday despite the absence of striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Mauritania was 1-0 up against South Africa in the first five minutes when South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune let a long-range shot from Aly Abeide slip through his hands. Siyabonga Zulu was then sent off for South Africa in the opening moments of the second half and Mauritania took advantage, sending the South Africans to the bottom of the group.
There were also surprising results when Joel Mogorosi’s powerful low shot delivered a 1-0 win for Botswana over 2013 African Cup finalist Burkina Faso, and Seychelles managed to hold on for a 1-1 home draw against Ethiopia.
Ghana avoided the upset, but only just as Spain-based midfielder Wakaso curled a free kick into the left corner late on to beat Rwanda and give Avram Grant’s team two wins from two in qualifying and control of Group H.
Ghana was run close by the Rwandans, realizing the fears of Grant, who criticized the Ghanaian government in the buildup for committing his squad to a friendly earlier this week to open a new stadium in Republic of Congo.
New Nigeria coach Oliseh selected Moses Simon, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike in his forward line but none of them could find a way past Tanzania’s defense, as Oliseh’s reign began with a subdued 0-0 draw. Egypt could take the lead in that group if it beats Chad on Sunday.
Cheikhou Kouyate and Sadio Mane scored in Senegal’s 2-0 win in Namibia, Burundi beat Niger, and Republic of Congo won 4-2 over Guinea Bissau.
The 13 group winners and two best second-placed teams qualify for the 2017 African Cup in Gabon. Defending champion Ivory Coast opens its qualifying campaign against Sierra Leone on Sunday.
This story has been corrected to show Burkina Faso as African Cup finalist in 2013 not 2012.
Associated Press writers Andrew Oryada in Kigali, Rwanda, and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, contributed to this report.