Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco and Senegal all moved to the brink of African Nations Cup qualification on Tuesday but 2013 winners Nigeria were eliminated while South Africa are all but out of contention for next year’s finals.
Egypt need only one more point after teenager Ramadhan Sobhi handed them a 1-0 win over Nigeria in Alexandria and condemned the powerful Super Eagles to a second tournament on the sidelines.
A low shot from Sobhi in the 65th minute means Egypt, who have won a record seven Nations Cup titles, need only draw their last qualifier away against Tanzania in June to return to the finals after missing three successive tournaments.
Nigeria, who are five points adrift in Group G with one game to go, will sit out the 2017 finals in Gabon, as they did in Equatorial Guinea last year after winning the 2013 edition in South Africa.
Senegal also require a solitary point from their last two games after going six points clear in Group K with a 2-1 win in Niger where Moussa Konate and Pape Ndiaye Souare scored for the visitors.
A double from Youssef El Arabi means Morocco are also a single point away from the finals after beating the Cape Verde Islands 2-0 in Marrakech. They kept up their 100 percent record in Group F by again beating the continent’s top ranked team.
Algeria came from behind three times to draw away against Ethiopia and go five points clear in Group J with two rounds to play. An 85th minute penalty converted by defender Faouzi Ghoulam ensured a 3-3 draw in Addis Ababa.
A goalless draw for Cameroon away in Durban against South Africa also put them on the cusp of qualification and left their hosts without a win after four Group M matches. “We had hoped for a win to make our position even more secure but this was a good result,” said Cameroon’s new coach Hugo Broos afterwards.
Liberia, who have not qualified for the finals since George Weah was at the peak of his powers, top Group A after beating Djibouti 5-0 at home while the Democratic Republic of Congo are also group leaders after beating Angola 2-0 away with second half goals from Joel Kimwaki and Jonathan Bolingi.
Guinea revived their hopes by winning 2-1 in Malawi but Togo failed to make use of the return of Emmanuel Adebayor to their side and were held to a 0-0 home draw by Tunisia.
The next round of qualifying in June will be followed by a last set of preliminaries in September. Hosts Gabon will be joined by 13 qualifying group winners and the best two runners-up.