Africa Cup of Nations

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Field set for African Cup of Nations as last five teams qualify

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South Africa became the last team to qualify for the African Cup of Nations as it ended Libya’s hopes with a 2-1 win in Tunisia.

Bafana Bafana took the 24th spot at an expanded African Cup in Egypt in June and July, the first time the continental championship will be increased from 16 to 24 teams.

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South Africa was one of five teams to leave it to Sunday, the last day of qualifying, to book its place. Benin, Zimbabwe, Congo and Tanzania also made it to complete the 2019 African Cup lineup.

Striker Percy Tau was South Africa’s hero with both goals as the game against Libya came alive in a dramatic 20-minute spell after halftime.

Tau put South Africa ahead in the 49th minute with a powerful left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area. Ahmad Benali equalized with a penalty in the 65th after South Africa goalkeeper Darren Keet kicked a Libyan player in the face as he went up to catch the ball.

Tau re-established South Africa’s lead just three minutes later with a right-footed goal this time.

South Africa needed just a draw to qualify. Libya had to win.

Stadium stampede kills at least one during AFCON qualifying

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A mad rush to get into a stadium in Madagascar has led to death of at least one spectator and injuries to over 30 more.

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The Stade de Mahamasina uses only one entrance. That’s a fatal flaw that should’ve been remedied long ago, and the stadium also saw two fans die and many more injured during a 2005 stampede to get into an already packed building.

The Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match went ahead as scheduled between Senegal and Madagascar. From the BBC:

Thousands of spectators were still trying to get into the stadium through the only entrance.

Two of those hurt are in a critical condition in the capital, Antananarivo.

Unfortunately, as the BBC notes, stadium stampedes are not a rarity.

The match finished 2-2, with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Stoke City’s Mame Diouf scoring for Senegal.

He could’ve scored six: Salah shines for Egypt

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Mohamed Salah had a night.

Returning to Egypt for the first time since the World Cup, Salah scored twice and added two assists in a 6-0 win over Niger in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. He also missed two penalties, converted the rebound of one.

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The video doesn’t lie: The Egyptian superstar probably could’ve scored as many as six goals (and Niger’s defense was terrible). That estimate may even be conservative.

It started with Salah missing a first minute penalty, but this video shows just how dominant of a performance was put forth by the Liverpool star. Regardless of opponent, it should be eye-opening for those who think his incredible season with the Reds was simply a product of Jurgen Klopp‘s system.

African soccer considers major shakeup for Cup of Nations

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RABAT, Morocco (AP) African soccer’s biggest tournament could be moved from the start of the year to the European summer months of June and July, with the number of teams being increased from 16 to 24.

The proposals for the future of the African Cup of Nations were made at a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Rabat, Morocco, hosted by the Confederation of African Football. The changes appear to have widespread support.

New CAF president Ahmad, who was elected in March to replace long-standing leader Issa Hayatou, promised a review of the Cup of Nations in his election campaign.

The move from January-February to June-July would be especially important for CAF’s flagship tournament – its major money earner – which has been troubled for years by the fact that it clashes with a crucial time for European leagues.

That’s led to club vs. country dilemmas for many of Africa’s Europe-based players, underlined at this year’s Cup of Nations in Gabon when seven of Cameroon’s top players decided to miss the three-week tournament to remain with their clubs.

The increase from 16 to 24 teams would follow the lead of the European Championship, which increased from 16 to 24 teams in 2016, and the World Cup, which will go to 48 teams from 2026. The reasoning behind the expansion for the African Cup is simple: More teams mean more games, and more television and marketing revenue for CAF.

The proposals, made at the meeting of leading soccer figures from across Africa, would need to be formally approved by CAF’s executive committee. The executive committee is expected to meet before CAF’s special general assembly is held in Rabat on Friday.

Three former champs lose in African Cup qualifying’s final round

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Three former champions lost at home at the start of the final round of qualifying for the 2019 African Cup of Nations on Saturday, with Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Zambia all slipping up.

Ivory Coast was beaten by Guinea 3-2 after leading 1-0 and 2-1, Nigeria lost to South Africa 2-0, and Zambia was upset by Mozambique 1-0.

Cameroon, the African champion and host of the next Cup of Nations in 2019, beat Morocco 1-0 with a goal by striker Vincent Aboubakar, the man who scored the winner for Cameroon in this year’s Cup of Nations final.

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Cameroon has its place at the 2019 tournament guaranteed as host but will still take part in the qualifying competition and collect points from games.

Qualifying comes down to 12 groups of four teams. The group winners and three best second-place teams qualify alongside the host team. If Cameroon wins its group, the second-place team can qualify. If Cameroon finishes second in its group, only the winner qualifies.

Ivory Coast, African champion in 2015, fell to a late winner from Guinea’s Naby Keita after Seydou Doumbia twice gave the Ivorians the lead in Abidjan.

South Africa enjoyed immediate success under new coach Stuart Baxter as he oversaw Bafana Bafana’s first ever competitive win over three-time African champion Nigeria. Second-half goals by Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau took South Africa to its surprise win in the southern city of Uyo after Nigeria blew a number of good chances in the first 45.

Zambia, African Cup winner in 2012, was undone late on when Stanley Ratifo scored for Mozambique with a shot from a tight angle in the 90th minute.

Madagascar, Malawi, Burundi, Mali, Libya, Sierra Leone, Congo, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau also made winning starts to the group stage.

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Congo won the battle with neighboring Republic of Congo after a double from Cedric Bakambu.

Two of Burkina Faso’s stars of their run to the semifinals at this year’s Cup of Nations were on target in a 3-1 win over Angola as Aristide Bance scored twice and Bertrand Traore sealed victory.

Uganda’s qualifier in Cape Verde was postponed until Sunday after the Ugandan squad was stranded in Senegal because of technical problems with its airplane.

Ghana and Algeria start their final group campaigns on Sunday, and Tunisia hosts Egypt, the losing finalist at this year’s African Cup.