Mauritania, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau qualify for 2021 AFCON

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CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 19: Goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi Ouhab holds the trophy as Algerian team celebrate championship after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final match between Senegal and Algeria at the Cairo Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on July 19, 2019. Algeria won their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in 29 years, beating Senegal 1-0 late Friday in Egypt. (Photo by Fared Kotb/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Four more teams booked their places at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations following the conclusion off the final round of qualifying on Tuesday.

Mauritania emerged victors in a three-way battle for qualification in Group E after defeating Central African Republic 1-0 in Bangui courtesy of Abubakar Kamara’s goal in added time in the first half.

FILE PHOTO: A player holding the Africa Cup of Nations trophy. (Photo by Fared Kotb/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Victory coupled with Burundi’s 1-0 loss to already-qualified Morocco sent the U-20 AFCON hosts to the continental showpiece for the second time in their history.

Munir El Haddadi’s goal at the Stade Moulay Abdallah in Rabat earned the Atlas Lions a win which saw them finish the qualification campaign unbeaten with four victories and two draws.

Cape Verde also sealed qualification in a three-way tussle in Group F as they edged Mozambique 1-0 in Maputo. Faisal Bangal’s own goal shortly before the hour mark gifted the Blue Sharks the only available ticket in Group F and effectively ended his own side’s slim chances of progression.

The other challenger in the group, Rwanda, could only settle for a goalless draw with hosts Cameroon, who were taking part in the qualifiers to give their squad some much-needed game time.

In Group I, Guinea Bissau thumped Congo 3-0 in Bissau to leapfrog their opponents who had begun the day in pole position to qualify.

Goals from Piqueti, Joao Jaqueti and Jorginho earned the home side three points which moved them to nine points, one place and one point above their opponents. This will be Guinea Bissau’s third consecutive appearance at the finals.

The other group game saw 2019 AFCON runners-up Senegal survive a shock to draw 1-1 at home to Eswatini. Cheikou Kouyate’s equalizer deep into added time in the second half salvaged a point for Africa’s top-ranked side after Eswatini had led for most of the match through Sabelo Gamedze.

Ethiopia qualified from Group K despite falling to a 3-1 defeat away to Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan. Madagascar’s failure to defeat Niger, whom they drew 0-0 with, earned Ethiopia its first AFCON appearance in eight years.

Three-time winners Nigeria finished their qualification campaign without loss following a 3-0 win at home against Lesotho. Victor Osimhen opened the scoring in the first half and goals by Oghenekaro Etebo and Paul Onuachu sealed an emphatic win.

Only one spot remains to be decided after the game between Sierra Leone and Benin failed to take place. Benin declined to play their Group L match in protest against local authorities declaring at least five of their players tested positive for COVID-19.

Benin’s players refused to leave the team bus in Freetown after being informed less than an hour to kick off that the players who tested positive were not able to play. Benin requires a point to qualify while Sierra Leone needs a win.

African football has been hit by accusations of authorities of home teams tampering with COVID-19 results in both continental club and national matches.

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