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Guinea qualify for Cup of Nations, Mauritania boost hopes

Guinea qualified for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations without playing on Tuesday and Mauritania are poised to join them after a decisive victory over Sudan.

A 0-0 draw between Ethiopia and Malawi in Maputo eliminated both and cleared the way for Guinea to accompany Egypt from Group D to the 24-team finals in the Ivory Coast from January 13.

Minnows Mauritania rose from last to first in the hotly contested Group I by hammering Sudan 3-0 through goals from centre-backs Nouh el Abd and Hassan Houbeib and Hemeya Tanjy.

Group C is also wide open after Burundi scored three goals within 19 minutes, then hung on for a 3-2 victory over previously unbeaten Namibia.

Guinea are the 15th qualifiers after Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia.

The other nine places at the biennial African showpiece will be filled during the sixth and final matchday from September 4-12.

Sudan were forced to stage their home fixture against Mauritania in the southern Moroccan coastal city of Agadir because of the civil war in the east African nation.

The Sudanese said before the match they were desperate to win and top the table to “bring joy to our people and mitigate the suffering, even for a few days”.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said this week that “the scale and speed of Sudan’s descent into death and destruction is unprecedented.”

Since mid-April, the army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has battled the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, in a power struggle.

Sudan fell behind when El Abd struck midway through the first half and early second-half goals from Houbeib and Tanjy sealed the fate of the Sudanese.

Mauritania have eight points, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon seven each and Sudan six ahead of the final round.

The Mauritanians, for decades one of the weakest national teams in Africa, will have home advantage over Gabon as they seek a third straight appearance at the finals.

Two-time champions DR Congo must fancy their chances of qualifying as Sudan have to visit the central African nation.

Burundi, not a team renowned for scoring many goals, took a 55-second lead over Namibia in Dar es Salaam thanks to Abedi Bigirimana.

Bonfils-Caleb Bimenyimana and Hussein Shabani added goals for the one-time qualifiers, then Namibia captain Peter Shalulile netted just before half-time.

A tense finish ensued when substitute Wendell Rudath scored a second Namibian goal with five minutes of regular time remaining.

Namibia still top the mini-league with five points, but have completed their schedule while Cameroon and Burundi, level on four points, meet in September.