JOHANNESBURG: A World Cup qualifying game in Guinea was postponed as an apparent coup d’etat unfolded in the West African nation on Sunday, and the visiting Moroccan team reportedly left the country safely after being confined to its hotel as gunshots rang out nearby.

Guinea were due to host Morocco in a Group ‘I’ game on Monday in the capital, Conakry.

But President Alpha Conde was detained by mutinous soldiers the day before the game and hours after heavy gunfire was heard near the presidential palace in Conakry. Soldiers then announced on state television that the government had been dissolved.

The political and security situation in Guinea is quite volatile,” the Confederation of African Football said in a statement announcing the qualifier had been postponed to ensure safety of players and match officials. CAF and FIFA were closely monitoring the situation, CAF said.

Guinea’s borders were closed but the Moroccan squad was given permission to leave, according to local news reports.

“We’re at the hotel, gunshots can be heard nearby,” Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic told French newspaper L’Equipe earlier in the day when the team was stranded.

But as dusk fell, the team received permission to leave and were spirited home on a Moroccan plane waiting for them at the airport, despite soldiers saying they had closed the country’s borders.

Social media posts showed pictures of two team buses making their way to the airport being cheered by locals, who had come out onto the streets to celebrate the alleged overthrow of the government.

Match officials were also eventually allowed to leave Guinea, the reports said.

It was not immediately clear when Guinea’s Europe-based players including Liverpool’s Naby Keita and Sochaux’s Florentin Pogba, the brother of Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, would be able to return to their clubs. CAF gave no new date for the game to be played.

There were three matches in the African qualifying competition on Sunday, with Egypt only managing a 1-1 draw in Gabon in Group ‘F’ despite the return of Mohamed Salah, who also took back the captain’s armband.

The Egyptians had Omar Gaber sent off for a second yellow card in the 71st minute and went behind to substitute Jim Allevinah’s goal just two minutes later in Franceville.

Mostafa Mohamed came off the bench and rescued what might be an important point for Egypt with a 90th-minute equaliser.

Salah missed Egypt’s first qualifier a 1-0 home win over Angola last week after Liverpool refused to release the forward for the game because he would have faced a mandatory 10-day quarantine period on his return to Britain.

Egypt is on Britain’s red list of countries, requiring anyone traveling from there to go into quarantine. Gabon is not on that list, allowing Salah to play and return to Liverpool without quarantining.

Egypt lead the group but Libya can go top if they beat Angola on Tuesday. Only the 10 group winners qualify for Africa’s final playoffs for a place at the World Cup in Qatar next year.

Namibia went top of Group ‘H’ with a surprise 1-0 away victory over Togo thanks to a spectacular second-half goal by Elmo Kambindu.

After coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Congo Brazzaville three days ago, Kambindu was promoted to the starting line-up by coach Bobby Samaria for the match in Lome.

The change paid off eight minutes into the second half when Kambindu scored with a bicycle kick after Deon Hotto floa­ted a free-kick into a crowded goalmouth.

Namibia have four points from two matches, one more than Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal, who will regain first place if they avoid losing in Congo on Monday.

Togo are pointless under recently hired Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte after also losing in Senegal.

In Kigali, Kenya scored early through Michael Olunga before hosts Rwanda equalised in the 20th minute in Group ‘E’.

Kenya have two points and Rwanda one after two matches each while leaders Mali, who have three points, play in Uganda on Monday.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021

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