Most of Africa’s heavyweights made it through to next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations after the final round of the qualifiers ended on Sunday, with only one huge upset that saw four-time winners Cameroon
The big match
Despite having striker Samuel Eto’o back in the fold, the Indomitable Lions could not overcome the two-goal deficit from the first leg after falling behind by yet another goal in the early going from Portugal-based striker Heldon Nhuck Ramos’ free-kick.
Achille Emana equalised the match before half-time, but the stunned crowd then watched their side knock on the door repeatedly without success.
Eto’o hit the woodwork, but 16-year-old substitute Fabrice Olinga’s late match winner on his debut was but a consolation for Cameroon, who will miss out on consecutive continental finals for the first time since 1980.
Abdelaziz Barrada opened the scoring for the hosts in Marrakech, while Houssine Kharja’s penalty evened up the tie after a foul that saw the visitors reduced to 10 men.
Late goals from Youssef El Arabi and Nordin Amrabat gave new national coach Rachid Taoussi a winning start.
Title holders Zambia avoided a surprising exit by the skin of their teeth, defeating unfancied Uganda following a marathon penalty shoot-out. Zambia lost 1-0 in Kampala in the second leg as the match went into penalties, where they prevailed with a 9-8 victory.
Another team to come from behind was Ethiopia, who beat Sudan 2-0 in Addis Ababa with two second-half goals from Adane Girma and Saladin Said to go through on the away goal rule following a 5-3 defeat in the first leg.
The Elephants are set to make their fifth consecutive Nations Cup appearance as they chase an elusive title, having lost in the 2006 and 2012 finals to Egypt and Zambia respectively.
Tunisia failed to score in a goalless draw at home to Sierra Leone but still managed to qualify after scoring twice away from home in the 2-2 first-leg tie, while Togo‘s Emmanuel Adebayor scored for the second time in the tie to lead the Hawks past Gabon 2-1 after an even first leg.
Didier Drogba, looking as reliable as ever despite ending his glittering European career to join China’s Shanghai Shenhua in the summer, scored from a free-kick and a penalty to lift the Ivorians in a bad-tempered game against Senegal.
Come January’s finals in South Africa, the prolific targetman will be looking to make up for his famous penalty miss in the 2012 AFCON final defeat against Zambia as Côte d’Ivoire eye their first continental triumph since 1992.
30 – The number of years since a resurgent Ethiopia have qualified for the Nations Cup.
What they said
“We are used to pressure. This will be my third Africa Nations Cup with Zambia. and I’m sure with the players I have, we can achieve more.” Zambia coach Herve Renard after his side’s heart-stopping penalty shoot-out win.
The Nations Cup draw will be held in Durban on 24 October.
Second leg results
(Ghana win 3-0 on aggregate)
(Mali win 7-1 on aggregate)
(Zambia win on penalties 9-8 after a 1-1 aggregate score)
(Nigeria win 8-3 on aggregate)
(Tunisia win on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate score)
(Côte d’Ivoire win 6-2 on aggregate)
(Morocco win 4-2 on aggregate)
(Ethiopia win on away goals after a 5-5 aggregate score)
Cameroon 2-1 Cape Verde
(Cape Verde win 3-2 on aggregate)
(Angola win on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate score)
Niger 2-0 Guinea
(Niger win 2-1 on aggregate)
(Togo win 3-2 on aggregate)
(Congo DR win 5-2 on aggregate)
(Burkina Faso win 3-2 on aggregate)
(Algeria win 3-0 on aggregate)