Hosts Zambia breezed into the semifinals of the 2017 African Under-20 Championships following a 6-1 thrashing of Mali in their Group A clash at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Wednesday.
By reaching the knockout stage, Young Chipolopolo have also booked themselves a place at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea that will take place in May and June, becoming the first African side to do so.
Egypt and Guinea played to a 1-1 draw in the other match in the pool on Wednesday, with all three of the other teams in Group B still in with a chance of finishing second.
Zambia have an unassailable lead at the top though having managed a full haul of six points from their two games so far, followed by Egypt on two points and Mali and Guinea with one each.
If Egypt win their final match on Saturday they will advance as well, but a loss or a draw with the rampant Zambians will open the door for either Mali or Guinea to go through if either of those sides win in their final clash.
Zambia were stunned in the opening five minutes of their match with Mali as they fell behind to a goal from Abdoul Dante, who headed home a corner.
But if they were shaken, they didn’t show it and within three minutes the home side were level as Patson Daka laid on the chance for Fashion Sakala to equalise.
Emmanuel Banda put the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, and eight minutes later as Enock Mwepu profited from Edward Chilufya’s fine pass to score a third.
That was the way it stayed at the break, but early in the second half Zambia grabbed complete control of the game as Chilufya bagged two goals in four minutes.
Things got worse for the hapless Maliens as Sakala got his second and Zambia’s sixth goal on 64 minutes, but that would be the end of the scoring on a thoroughly impressive evening for the home side.
In the opening game of the day, Guinea denied Egypt a victory when they fought back for a 1-1 draw.
Guinea started the brighter and were unlucky not to go in front when Momo Yansane struck the crossbar, before Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Mostafa produced an outstanding stop to deny Alseny Soumah.
But it was the Egyptians who took the lead as Mostafa Abdallah found the time and space to score.
Yansane was again denied by Mostafa as the personal duel between those two continued, before Morlaye Sylla saw his effort cleared off the line by Ahmed Mohamed.
But Guinea were not to be denied and Yamoudou Traore pounced to score with 10 minutes remaining and keep his side’s semifinal hopes alive.
South Africa could be the second side into the knockout stages after Thursday’s Group B matches following their opening 3-1 victory over Cameroon.
This time they face the west African threat of Senegal, who could only manage a 1-1 draw with Sudan in their opening game, and a victory for Amajita at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola (kick-off 16h00 GMT) will see them into the semifinals and on to South Korea.
Earlier in the day Sudan meet Cameroon at the same venue at 13h00 GMT.