Tunisia became the third team to qualify for the African Cup of Nations after a 0-0 draw in Botswana on Friday, while Côte d’Ivoire resurrected its chances with a convincing 5-1 win over Sierra Leone.
Tunisia ensured it will finish in the top two in Group G with the point and joined Algeria and Cape Verde, who had already sealed their places in the tournament.
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Equatorial Guinea was announced earlier Friday as the new host of the Cup of Nations in January and February and earned an automatic place despite being excluded from the qualifying competition in July for fielding an ineligible player.
Equatorial Guinea was reinstated as host nation in place of Morocco, which was stripped of hosting rights by organizers the Confederation of African Football after requesting a postponement because of the Ebola outbreak.
Teams will now vie for the remaining 12 places in the Jan. 17-Feb. 8 tournament.
Côte d’Ivoire boosted its chances with a double from Salomon Kalou and goals from Kolo Toure, Max Gradel and Gervinho in the hammering of Sierra Leone in Abidjan. Sierra Leone was briefly level at 1-1 through Moustapha Bangura after Toure’s seventh-minute opener.
The game was listed as a home tie for Sierra Leone but was played in Côte d’Ivoire because of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Sierra Leone and Guinea, two of the countries badly affected by the deadly disease, have been banned from playing games at home during qualifying.
Another 12 matches are scheduled for Saturday to complete the penultimate round. South Africa, Cameroon and Ghana can qualify, while Egypt and Senegal meet in Cairo in a crucial game to see who joins Tunisia as the second automatic qualifier from Group G.
Defending African champion Nigeria, with coach Stephen Keshi reinstated, plays away at Republic of Congo needing a victory to maintain a realistic chance of traveling to Equatorial Guinea.
The top two from each of the seven groups and the one best third-place team will qualify for the finals alongside the new host.