Cameroon slipped to a surprise loss at Cape Verde, Central African Republic moved closer to its first major tournament and defending champion Zambia won narrowly at the start of the final round of qualifying for the African Cup on Saturday.
Ivory Coast came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to beat Senegal 4-2 in the first leg of their tie. Ghana beat Malawi 2-0.
Cameroon lost 2-0 and is in danger of missing out on its second straight African Cup ahead of decisive second-leg matches in October. Just seven months after lifting the trophy in Gabon, Zambia entered qualifying for next year’s tournament in South Africa with a 1-0 home win over Uganda through a first-half goal by captain Christopher Katongo.
After eliminating seven-time winner Egypt in the last round, Central African Republic is one game away from a long-awaited place at the Cup of Nations after a 1-0 victory in its home leg against Burkina Faso. Nigeria was held to 2-2 in Liberia.
Elsewhere, Mali beat Botswana 3-0, strikers Daniel Cousin and Emmanuel Adebayor scored as Gabon and Togo drew 1-1, Sierra Leone and Tunisia drew 2-2 and Sudan beat Ethiopia 5-3 as the last round of qualifiers began with 10 first-leg matches. The remaining five ties kick off on Sunday as 30 teams battle over two legs for a place at the 16-team African Cup alongside host South Africa.
Without captain and leading striker Samuel Eto’o, who has refused to return to international duty after a lengthy ban, Cameroon lost against a team that was once ranked well below the four-time African champion. Now, only four places separate the slumping 61st-ranked Cameroon and Cape Verde in the Fifa rankings and the Indomitable Lions have a two-goal deficit to overturn back at home if they are to avoid joining Egypt as another high-profile absentee at the continental championship.
Ivory Coast, the top-ranked African team and losing finalist in Gabon, relied on goals by star names Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Didier Drogba and Max Gradel to battle past Senegal in Abidjan, which had led through Dame N’Doye and then Papiss Cisse.
In Accra, Christian Atsu scored in the eighth minute and Anthony Annan added a second with a powerful drive in the 51st to put Ghana in control of its tie against Malawi, which had James Shangala sent off late on.
Vianney Mabide claimed Central African Republic’s sole goal in the first half against the Burkinabes to take the one-time minnows of African football to the brink of the showpiece in South Africa. Central African Republic also won its first World Cup qualifying game this year and is now ranked higher than Morocco, South Africa and Togo.
Omega Roberts’ brace gave Liberia hopes of an upset against Nigeria. Nosa Igiebor of Real Betis had put Nigeria level after Roberts’ opener and a penalty from Ike Uche gave the visitors a come-from-behind lead before a second from Roberts left the tie evenly poised ahead of the return leg next month.