The final-round first-leg qualifiers for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations were played over the weekend with champions Zambia unimpressive in their 1-0 win over Uganda.
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and DR Congo have all taken a big step towards the tournament in South Africa while others like Cameroon, Nigeria have some work to do.
Ghana clinched a 2-0 win over Malawi with Ivory Coast struggling to beat Senegal 4-2 in Abidjan, plus a round-up of all the matches:
Zimbabwe 3-1 Angola
Gustavo Ferrin’s first competitive match in charge of Angola was not a happy one as Zimbabwe took a giant stride toward South Africa 2013 with a 3-1 home win.
It could have been even worse for the visitors, but for Djalma’s goal just after the interval.
By that stage, the Warriors were already 3-0 up, thanks to an own goal from Bastos, and further efforts from Khama Billiat and Archford Gutu – all before half-time.
Zimbabwe last appeared at a Nations Cup finals in 2006. Angola did manage an away goal, just to keep things interesting for the return leg in Luanda.
Mozambique caused one of the big shocks of the weekend with a 2-0 home win over the 2004 runners-up Morocco.
Second half goals from Almiro Lobo and Elias Pelembe have given Mozambique every chance of qualifying for only their second Nations Cup finals in the last eight attempts.
Morocco, since finishing second to Tunisia eight years ago, have failed to get beyond the group stage in three tournaments, whilst missing out on the 2010 edition altogether.
Dieumerci Mbokani got amongst the goals as DR Congo overwhelmed Equatorial Guinea.
The 2012 Nations Cup co-hosts were blown away by a storming second half from DR Congo, who were in complete control of this first leg in Kinshasa.
Dieumerci Mbokani (2), Deo Kanda and Issama Mpeko grabbed the goals, as DR Congo closed in on a return to the Nations Cup finals for the first time since 2006.
The last time they featured at the continent’s top tournament, Claude Le Roy was in charge. The much-travelled Frenchman is back at the helm and his influence seems to be working wonders.
DR Congo’s players are also US$200,000 better off as the president of club side TP Mazembe, Moise Katumbi, is reported to have promised the team US$50,000 for each goal.
This tie is far from over after Guinea could only manage a 1-0 win over Niger in Conakry.
Niger, who made a disappointing debut at the Cup of Nations earlier this year, will remain confident of reaching a second successive finals.
Ibrahim Yattara was the Guinea scorer. He netted five minutes after the break, following some good work down the left by Stuttgart’s Ibrahima Traore.
Ugly scenes marred the end of this contest, which was played in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, due to ongoing security concerns in Libya.
Players and officials from both sides became involved in fighting at the final whistle, which does not bode well for what is sure to be a tense second leg in Algeria.
Algeria left it late to snatch an away goal. Hillel Soudani, who plays his club football in Portugal, pounced with just three minutes remaining.
Christopher Katongo’s first-half strike has handed the reigning champions a slender advantage ahead of what will surely be a tough return leg in Kampala.
The Zambian goal came after 20 minutes, an easy tap-in from the skipper following Davies Nkausu’s long throw.
Uganda threatened little and will feel relieved to head home trailing by just the one goal.
Katongo had an effort ruled out for offisde. The Chipolopolo also hit the post during a long spell of domination, as they went hunting for a second.
Uganda have not lost at home since 2004. This tie is far from over.
Burkina Faso will have to come from behind in their final round qualifier for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after losing 1-0 to Central African Republic in Bangui on Saturday.
‘The Stallions’, who have been regular participants at AFCON tournaments in recent years, succumbed thanks to a first half goal from the host team’s Vianney Mabide.
They will try to turn the tie on its head in the second leg in Ouagadougou next month.
For CAR, who shocked former African champions Egypt in the previous round, this result puts them on course to qualify for their first ever Nations Cup finals.
A late equaliser from Emmanuel Adebayor – on his return to the Togo team – gives them the upper hand after a dramatic finale in Libreville.
Meeting for only the second time in a competitive fixture, the 2012 co-hosts Gabon proved stubborn opponents and did well to initially keep the Sparrow Hawks at bay.
It was Gabon who finally broke the deadlock, when veteran striker Daniel Cousin powered in a header with around 15 minutes remaining.
But Adebayor, back after yet another self-imposed exile, struck moments later to set up an intriguing second leg in Lome next month.
Anthony Annan (left) and Asamoah Gyan made an impact in the home tie against Malawi.
A goal in each half handed the Black Stars a comfortable victory in Accra, leaving Malawi with much to do in the return leg.
Christian Atsu gave Ghana the perfect start, settling any nerves with the opener after just eight minutes.
With Malawi sitting deep and seeking to soak up Ghana pressure, the hosts were made to work for their second, which fell the way of Anthony Annan only six minutes after the interval.
Malawi’s cause was not helped when James Sangala was dismissed in the latter stages, and they now face a big ask if they are to reach the Cup of Nations finals for only the third time in their history.
Asamoah Gyan captained the side in his first appearance since returning from a self-imposed international exile.
Tunisia twice came from a goal down to severely dent Sierra Leone’s hopes of reaching their first Nations Cup finals since 1996.
The Leone Stars led through Azerbaijan-based Sheriff Suma after only seven minutes.
They held that advantage until midway through the second period, whereupon Fateh Gharbi beat Christian Caulker with a left-foot shot following a fine move.
Alhassan Kamara headed in what he felt must have been the winning goal just five minutes before the end, only for Youssef M’sakni to equalise two minutes later.
Ivory Coast came out on top in the clash of the titans but they had to twice come from behind against a determined Senegal.
A late surge by the Ivorians – beaten finalists earlier this year at the 2012 Cup of Nations – ensured they go to Dakar for the return leg with a bit of breathing space.
Dame N’Doye opened for Senegal, before Salomon Kalou punished the visitors just before the break to level matters.
The home crowd was hushed once again when Papiss Cisse hit Senegal’s second on the hour mark, before the Elephants stormed back with goals from Gervinho, Didier Drogba (pen) and Max Gradel.
Drogba also had a late goal disallowed for handball.
Cape Verde recorded arguably one of their greatest-ever results as they triumphed 2-0 at home to the four-times champions Cameroon.
The second leg awaits, but goals from Ricardo – his first at international level – and Djaniny will have the minnows believing that they can reach the Cup of Nations finals for the first time in their history.
Without Samuel Eto’o, it seems, Cameroon are finding goals hard to come by, but it is goals they so desperately need in the return leg if they are to avoid missing successive Nations Cups for the first time since 1980.
Modibo Maiga’s goal for Mali means Botswana have a mountain to climb in the second leg.
Mali trounced Botswana 3-0 in Bamako on Saturday to give themselves a great chance of making it to South Africa next year.
France-based Cheick Diabate put the home side in front after 27 minutes when he converted a penalty, before Mahamadou Ndiaye added a second just before the hour mark.
Modibo Maiga sealed victory 20 minutes from time as Mali’s superiority in all areas of the game left the Zebras chasing shadows.
A three-goal cushion means the Eagles, who finished third at this year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, head into the return leg in Gaberone with no major fears.
For Botswana, the result was another reality check for a team that made its debut at the continental showpiece this year and promised to do it again in South Africa next year.
Sudan and Ethiopia rolled back the years in a match full of goals and packed with drama.
It took just seven minutes for the opening goal to arrive, driven in from Mudather El Tayeb Karika.
That set the tone for a pulsating display of attacking football, one in which Ethiopia certainly played their part.
The visitors were level within seven minutes, as Getaneh Kebede got in on the act.
Parity was short lived. Within two minutes, Momhmad Bisha had restored Sudan’s advantage. And when Musab Umar cleverly converted a free kick on 36 minutes, Sudan looked in control.
Ethiopia snapped back at Sudan after the break, with goals from Kebede and Tesfaye Alebachew to make it 3-3, before two late strikes from Muhannad El Tahir.
El Tahir’s first was a converted penalty. His second, and Sudan’s fifth, was a follow-up, after his initial spot kick had been blocked.
Sekou Oliseh netted the second for Liberia and gave them hope for the return leg in Nigeria.
Liberia and Nigeria played out a 2-2 draw on a bumpy pitch at the Samuel Doe Stadium in Monrovia.
Omega Roberts stunned the Super Eagles with a goal after just eight minutes.
But the lead was short-lived as Nosa Igiebor found the equaliser just six minutes later.
Ike Uche then put the visitors in front from the penalty spot after the impressive Victor Moses was brought down inside the box.
A goalkeeping howler by Vincent Enyeama allowed Sekou Oliseh to score Liberia’s second deep into the second half.