Tiny Comoros, Gambia secure places at Cup of Nations finals

Mark Gleeson
·2-min read

By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The Comoros Islands and the Gambia qualified for the African Cup of Nations for the first time, securing places at next January’s finals after their penultimate group games on Thursday.

A goalless home draw against Togo maintained the Comoros’ unbeaten record in qualifying and guaranteed a top-two finish in Group G in a fairytale achievement for the small island nation.

Assan Ceesay scored around the hour mark for the Gambia as they beat Angola 1-0 at home and they will be joined in the finals from Group D by Gabon, who hammered Democratic Republic of Congo 3-0 with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among their scorers.

A dramatic last minute from captain Emilio Nsue handed Equatorial Guinea a 1-0 victory over Tanzania and a place in the finals at their visitors' expense.

Egypt also qualified for a record 25th appearance as Mohamed Salah returned to their team for the first time since the 2019 finals and they drew 1-1 with 10-man Kenya in Nairobi.

Ghana will participate in their 23rd tournament after a 1-1 draw with South Africa in Johannesburg ensured they will finish in the top two in Group C. South Africa and Sudan will battle it out for the other place in Khartoum on Sunday.

Zimbabwe had to wait, after winning 1-0 in Botswana, to see whether they would qualify. Neighbours Zambia needed to beat Algeria to keep their hopes alive but drew a thrilling game 3-3. Patrick Daka scored twice for Zambia and Islam Slimani got a double for the defending champions.

Zimbabwe have now qualified for a third successive finals.

The Comoros, with a population of under 900,000, have only been competing in international football since 2006 but have become more competitive in recent years after drawing players into the team from the Comorian community in France.

Their 1-0 win over Togo in November, 2019 at the start of the Cup of Nations qualifiers was a first away success for the Indian Ocean island archipelago in a competitive international and they held Egypt to a draw at home four days later.

"The pride I feel for my country is indescribable! Bravo to my players, my staff, my federation, thank you to the President. And a big thank you to our incredible supporters. Together we made history," coach Amir Abdou said on Twitter.

The identity of 14 of the 24-team field for the finals has now been settled with the remaining 10 to be determined over the next five days of qualifying matches.

(Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)