by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – THE just-ended qualifiers for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals indicate the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has come of age in the continent.
Seven countries from the region, arguably a record, have booked their berths in Africa’s prime football tournament scheduled for June-to July in Egypt.
Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe qualified.
Zimbabwe, one of two countries from the region in the 2017 edition in Gabon (alongside DRC) sealed qualification on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over Congo thanks to goals apiece by star players Khama Billiat and captain Knowledge Musona.
In the process, the Warriors brought some reprieve to the country of 16 million people, which is suffering the devastating Cyclone Idai floods that have killed 154 people and left hundreds missing.
Neighbouring South Africa were the last of the 24 sides to book a spot after Bafana Bafana edged Libya 2-1 under hostile conditions in neutral Tunisia owing to the civil strife in Libya.
Percy Tau was again the hero for the 1996 champions with a brace.
Earlier, Tanzania qualified for the first time since 1980 after massacring already-qualified Uganda 3-0 in a match played at Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Perennial participants DRC secured their spot after beating Liberia 1-0 at Stade des Martyrs in the capital Kinshasa, to qualify from the same group as Zimbabwe.
In other matches played on Saturday, Namibia, despite losing 4-1 to Zambia, progressed to the AFCON finals following goal difference ahead of close rivals Mozambique, who drew 2-2 with Guinea-Bissau.
Namibia qualified for the first time since 2008.
On Friday, Angola beat Botswana 1-0 away at Francistown Stadium to seal their AFCON destiny.
In October, Madagascar was the first SADC member to qualify hence they had the luxury to lose 2-0 away to Senegal also on Saturday.
Other qualifiers are the hosts Egypt, defending champions Cameroon, Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda.
FINAL QUALIFICATION RESULTS:
Algeria 1-1 Gambia, Stade Mustapha Tchaker
Tunisia 4-0 Swaziland, Stade Olympique de Rades
Burkina Faso 1-0 Mauritania, Stade du 4-Aout
Botswana 0-1 Angola, Francistown Stadium
Nigeria 3-1 Seychelles, Stephen Keshi Stadium
Sudan 1-4 Equatorial Guinea, Al-Hilal Stadium
Malawi 0-0 Morocco, Kamazu Stadium
Mali 3-0 South Sudan, Stade 26 Mars
Ghana 1- 0 Kenya, Accra Sports Stadium
Cote d’Ivoire 3-0 Rwanda, Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny
Guinea-Bissau 2-2 Mozambique, Estadio 24 de Setembro
Zambia 4-1 Namibia, Heroes National Stadium
Cameroon 4-0 Comoros, Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium
Niger 1-1 Egypt, Stade General Seyni Kountche
Burundi 1-1 Gabon, Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium
Cape Verde 0-0 Lesotho, Estadio Nacional de Cabo Verde
Tanzania 3-0 Uganda, Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium
DR Congo 1-0 Liberia, Stade des Martyrs
Zimbabwe 2- 0 Congo, National Sports Stadium.
– CAJ News