SENEGAL became the first team to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2022 with Sadio Mane scoring in a 1-0 win over Guinea-Bissau on Sunday.
Senegal now has a maximum 12 points from four games in Group I and is guaranteed one of the two qualifying places from the group.
Mane’s winner came with just eight minutes left in Guinea-Bissau, and made up for an earlier mistake by the Liverpool forward when he missed an open goal.
Guinea-Bissau had been down to 10 men since the 64th minute, when Jorge Bura Braima was sent off for a second yellow card.
Mane was also on target with the opening goal, a penalty, in Senegal’s 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in Senegal on Wednesday.
Senegal lost to Algeria in the final of the last Cup of Nations in Egypt last year, extending its long wait for a first African title. The next edition in Cameroon was meant to be played next year but the 2021 African Cup was moved back to January-February 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Defending champion Algeria, Ghana and Tunisia have all won three games from three in qualifying and could follow Senegal into the final tournament this week. Algeria plays away in Zimbabwe on Monday having beaten the Zimbabweans 3-1 at home last week, helped by a goal and an assist from Riyad Mahrez. Ghana travels to Sudan and Tunisia to Tanzania on Tuesday.
While Senegal sailed through, Guinea sustained a setback in its campaign on Sunday with a 1-1 draw in Chad, the bottom-place team in its group. Naby Keita gave Guinea the lead in N’Djamena before Ahmat Abdraman equalized right on halftime.
Guinea leads Group A by a point from Mali, which has played a game less. Those two teams are still favored to qualify from the group.
Also on Sunday, Comoros continued a dream run that might see the team qualify for its first major tournament. Comoros beat Kenya 2-1 to lead Group G by three points from African giant and record seven-time African Cup winner Egypt. Egypt has played a game less.
Comoros is unbeaten in all four of its games in the final qualifying stage, which includes holding Egypt to a 0-0 draw at home. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the tiny Indian Ocean nation has a population of around 800,000 people and won a major qualifying game away from home for the first time ever in this campaign. That was a 1-0 win in Togo last November.
Egypt is again expected to be without Mohamed Salah when it plays next in Togo on Tuesday. Salah tested positive for the coronavirus in Egypt last week and missed Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Togolese at home in Cairo. He will need to self-isolate for at least a week, the Egyptian team doctor said.