Ghana, Angola and Tanzania qualified for January’s African Cup of Nations finals when they finished in the top two of their respective groups on Thursday, leaving only six more places to be decided in the next days for the 24-team tournament in the Ivory Coast.
Ghana and Angola finished one-two in Group E, while Tanzania forced an unlikely goalless draw away in Algeria to also go through.
The result denied already qualified Algeria the chance of being the only country to complete the qualifying campaign with a 100% record.
Tanzania’s point in Annaba also left neighbours Uganda falling one point short despite beating Niger 2-0 away.
Algeria topped Group F with 16 points from six games, with Tanzania on eight and Uganda on seven.
It was a startling scoreline for the Tanzanians, who were given little chance against Algeria but benefited from the fact that their opponents left Said Benrahma and Riyad Mahrez on the bench until the second half when they made little impact after coming on.
Uganda had started their game in neutral Morocco hoping Algeria would do them a favour and beat Tanzania, leaving them sure to advance if they beat Niger. They did their bit with two first-half goals from Aziz Kayondo and Joseph Ochaya but did not get the result they needed from the other group game.
Substitute Ernest Nuamah scored two minutes from time to secure a come-from-behind 2-1 victory for Ghana over the Central African Republic in Kumasi while Angola also qualified despite being held to a goalless draw in Lubango by already-eliminated Madagascar.
Ghana finished top of Group E with 12 points, with Angola on nine, two more than the Central African Republic, who had needed to win their final match to qualify for the first time.
The Central African Republic went ahead through stand-in skipper Louis Mafouta as they tried to write history, even without injured captain and Olympique de Marseille midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia.
West Ham United’s new signing Mohammed Kudus equalised for Ghana just before halftime, and Antoine Semenyo set up the winner when he stripped the visiting defence of the ball and unselfishly passed for the 19-year-old Nuamah to net the winner from close range.
The newly qualified teams will join Algeria, Burkina Faso, the Cape Verde Islands, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia at the finals in the Ivory Coast, who qualified automatically as hosts.
Tunisia beat Botswana to finish first in Group J but needed a 60th-minute own goal from Alford Velaphi to break the deadlock before going on to win 3-0. The Tunisians had already qualified but edged Equatorial Guinea out of top place. Equatorial Guinea drew 1-1 away in Libya on Wednesday.
There are more qualifiers on Friday, but the next decisive ties come on Saturday.