JOHANNESBURG: Guinea-Bissau’s Mama Balde scored the only goal as they stunned Nigeria with a 1-0 win in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Abuja, while Morocco became the first team to book their place in the finals on Friday without kicking a ball.
Balde’s first-half goal was decisive against a Nigeria team packed with in-form attackers, including Serie A leading scorer Victor Osimhen, as Guinea-Bissau moved top of Group ‘A’ with seven points from three games.
Nigeria remain on course to qualify for the finals in Ivory Coast next January with six points from three matches but the defeat is their fourth in a row under Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro.
“I think if we played for another hour, we still wouldn’t score. Sometimes it happens in football,” Peseiro told reporters. “I’m not happy of course, I’m sad with my team. But they did the max, they created many opportunities, it was just a bad day.”
It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition with the Wild Dogs 81 places below the Super Eagles in the FIFA world rankings.
“As players and staff, we know we have to react to this result,” said Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi, one of three Premier League stars in Nigeria’s starting line-up. “All we can do is improve and, to the fans, all I can say is that they should stick by us and support us because we give 100 percent not just for ourselves, but also for our nation.
“Next time we are going to do our best and make the country proud,” he added, referring to the rematch in Guinea-Bissau on Monday.
South Africa let a two-goal lead slip at home to Liberia and had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Johannesburg, a result that ensures World Cup semi-finalists Morocco will finish in the top two places in the three-team group and qualify for the finals. Lyle Foster scored a brace for the hosts but they conceded twice late on in another surprise result.
Elsewhere, some of the biggest names in Africa were among the goals, including Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Sebastien Haller.
Returning to the Senegalese line-up after missing the World Cup due to a leg injury, Mane scored the second goal in a 5-1 Group ‘L’ rout of Mozambique in Dakar.
Salah claimed the first goal and played a role in the second by Omar Marmoush as Egypt beat Malawi 2-0 in Cairo to rise from last to first in Group ‘D’.
Haller, who resumed playing last month after successful treatment for testicular cancer, notched the second goal for the Ivory Coast in a 3-1 Group ‘H’ victory over the Comoros in Bouake, while Democratic Republic of Congo beat Mauritania by the same scoreline.
Cameroon were held to a surprise 1-1 draw at home by Namibia, who opened the scoring through prolific striker Peter Shalulile. The home side equalised in the second half via Olivier Kemen’s header.
Youssef Msakni scored for Tunisia as they brushed aside Libya 3-0, and Guinea eased to a 2-0 win over Ethiopia.
Simon Msuva scored the only goal as Tanzania won 1-0 at East African rivals Uganda and Cape Verde were held 0-0 by tiny Eswatini in Praia.
Mali defeated Gambia 2-0, Equatorial Guinea downed Botswana by the same scoreline and a late goal from Abdoul Tapsoba led Burkina Faso to a 1-0 home win over Togo.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023
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