Ghana and Senegal scored away success in the African Nations Cup qualifiers on Saturday but for other of the continent’s footballing heavyweight it proved a tough weekend with Nigeria drawing, and South Africa and Tunisia beaten.
There was a historic first-ever victory for South Sudan, who beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 at home after failing to win in their first 11 international since becoming the world’s newest nation four years ago.
A late free kick from Mubarak Wakaso handed Ghana a 1-0 win over Rwanda in Kigali and a second successive win in the preliminaries for the 2017 finals in Gabon.
Cheikhou Kouyate and Sadio Mane scored on either side of half-time to hand Senegal a 2-0 away victory in Namibia and also keep up their 100 percent record in Group K.
But Nigeria were held to a goalless draw away in Tanzania in a disappointing start for new coach Sunday Oliseh with debutant English-born goalkeeper Carl Ikeme emerging as the difference between a single point and defeat for the visitors.
COSAFA side South Africa suffered a major setback in Mauritania, ranked some 40 players below them, as goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune dropped a free kick into his own net and then had debutant defender Siyabonga Zulu sent off.
Despite being down to 10 men South Africa equalised only to give away two goals in a 3-1 defeat which marks Mauritania’s biggest scalp in their limited international record.
Tunisia lost 1-0 away in Liberia, who were celebrating a return home as they hosted their full international since the end of the Ebola crisis. Francis Grandpa Doe, whose recall to the squad had been criticised, got the game’s only goal.
Joel Mogorosi’s goal gave Botswana a 1-0 home win over Burkina Faso, who were Nations Cup runners-up in 2013.
Nordin Amrabat, Youssef El Arabi and Nabil Dirar scored as Morocco won 3-0 away in tiny Sao Tome e Principe and Fode Dore got a hat trick as Congo were 4-2 winners in Guinea Bissau.
A further 12 qualifiers are schedule on Sunday as teams continue the qualification process for the tournament in Gabon. The winners of the 13 groups plus two best placed runners-up qualify for the finals.
Meanwhile on Sunday, holders Ivory Coast were held to a draw in their first match under new management but former champions Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt and Zambia all won potentially difficult away games in Sunday’s African Nations Cup qualifiers.
There was victory on the road for the Cape Verde Islands, surprise package of the last two tournaments, and rare success for both the Central African Republic and Mauritius.
A weakened Ivory Coast, without captain Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Max Gradel, played out a goalless draw with Sierra Leone in a first match under new coach Michel Dussuyer.
The Group I qualifier had been moved to Port Harcourt in Nigeria because Ebola-affected Sierra Leone are banned from hosting any international football.
Two goals in the last three minutes from El Arabi Soudani delivered a 3-1 win for Algeria away over Lesotho and a second successive victory in Group J.
Vincent Aboubaker scored 65th minute winner for Cameroon away in the Gambia to add to the last minute goal he netted in the 1-0 victory over Mauritania at the start of Group M in June.
Egypt, who have missed out on the last three finals, went ahead after only two minutes in Ndjamena and with Bassem Morsi completing his hat trick won 5-1 against hosts Chad.
Striker Collins Mbesuma, a surprise recall for Zambia, scored the winner as the 2012 Nations Cup victors came from behind to beat Kenya 2-1 in Nairobi.
Ryan Mendes, who moved last week to Nottingham Forest, netted six minutes into stoppage time as the Cape Verdians beat Libya 2-1 in a match played in Cairo because of unstable security situation in Libya.
Civil war in the Central African Republic prevented them hosting qualifiers in the last World Cup preliminaries but a first game back in Bangui saw a surprise 2-0 victory over fancied neighbours Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mauritius scored a rare international success as Fabien Pithia’s 51st minute goal saw them home over Mozambique.
The next set of qualifiers for the 2017 Nations Cup finals will be played in March.
African teams now turn their attention to next month’s start of qualification for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.