Nigeria secured their place in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) alongside three other teams after a thrilling victory on Sunday.
Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho played the hero by scoring a last-minute winner, propelling the Super Eagles to a 3-2 triumph over Sierra Leone in Monrovia, Liberia.
In Group A, Guinea Bissau also secured their qualification as Sierra Leone’s hopes of catching up were dashed. Additionally, the Cape Verde Islands progressed from Group B, while Mali emerged victorious from Group G. These teams will join the previously qualified hosts Ivory Coast, reigning champions Senegal, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia in the finals scheduled for January.
Iheanacho’s decisive goal brought relief to Nigeria, who had surrendered a 2-0 lead following Victor Osimhen’s double as Sierra Leone mounted a courageous comeback to level the score at 2-2 and came close to taking the lead. However, the Leicester City striker sealed Nigeria’s victory with a simple tap-in at the back post just before the final whistle.
Guinea Bissau, who had previously defeated Sao Tome e Principe, secured a top-two finish in their group, earning them a fourth consecutive appearance in the finals. Cape Verde, whose team comprises several players from their migrant population in Portugal, secured their spot with a 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso.
In Brazzaville, Mali secured their ninth successive finals appearance with a 2-0 away win against Congo. Goals from Ibrahima Kone and Nene Dorgeles in the final 30 minutes sealed their qualification.
Gabon’s hopes of qualifying were dashed as they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Goals from Aaron Tshibola, born in London, and Tanzanian-based striker Fiston Mayele propelled DR Congo to the top of Group I.
Ghana’s qualification hopes from Group E were postponed as they were held to a goalless draw in Madagascar. They will have to wait for the final round of qualifiers in September to secure their place. Mozambique and Tanzania also improved their chances of qualifying with victories in their respective groups.
Algeria maintained their perfect record in the qualifiers, securing their fifth consecutive win by defeating Uganda 2-1, with Mohamed El Amine Amoura scoring both goals and Riyad Mahrez providing an assist.
The top two teams from each of the 12 qualifying groups will earn a spot in the finals. The fifth round of qualifiers, consisting of three remaining matches, will be played on Tuesday.