By Mark Gleeson
CAPE TOWN, March 30 (Reuters) – Ethiopia and Mauritania became the latest countries to qualify for next January’s Africa Cup of Nations finals as they secured the runners-up berths in their respective groups on Tuesday.
Ethiopia were outplayed in their final group game but still qualified, while Mauritania won 1-0 in the Central African Republic to secure their spot for a second straight tournament.
Ivory Coast beat Ethiopia 3-1 in Abidjan to top Group K with 13 points but Ethiopia, with nine, qualified as runners-up when Madagascar were held to a 0-0 draw by Niger at the same time.
The Malagasy, who made the last Cup of Nations quarter-finals on their debut, needed a home win to usurp Ethiopia in the standings but despite their desperate onslaught at home in Toamasina failed to beat veteran goalkeeper Kassaly Daouda.
Ethiopia were a goal behind within three minute as Willy Boly scored for the Ivorians followed by a 19th minute penalty from Franck Kessie.
Getaneh Kebede pulled a goal back in the second half but the hosts quickly re-established a two-goal advantage through Jean Evrard Kouassi.
There was then an anxious few minutes for Ethiopia as they waited for the final whistle in Madagascar, before the players erupted in celebration.
Former Fulham striker Aboubakar Kamara scored on the stroke of halftime to ensure Mauritania qualified with a win in Bangui.
They finished second in Group E behind Morocco, who host Burundi later on Tuesday.
French-born Kamara had only agreed to play for Mauritania, where his father hails from, earlier this year and was playing his second international.
A total of 21 teams have so far qualified for the finals in Cameroon with the last three places to be settled later on Tuesday. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021. Click For Restrictions – https://agency.reuters.com/en/copyright.html