JOHANNESBURG: Defending champions Senegal, South Africa and Burkina Faso qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in matchday four on Tuesday while Namibia are close to joining them after a shock win over Cameroon.
Reigning African Footballer of the Year Sadio Mane set up Boulaye Dia to score in the first half and give Senegal a 1-0 win over Mozambique in Maputo and an eight-point Group L lead.
Mihlali Mayambela pounced on a loose ball to score the winner as South Africa defeated Liberia 2-1 in Monrovia and join shock 2022 World Cup semifinalists Morocco as the Group K qualifiers.
Burkina Faso needed one point from a visit to Togo to qualify and they drew 1-1 with Dango Ouattara giving the visiting side an early lead that Kodjo Laba canceled out in Lome.
Captain Peter Shalulile opened the scoring for Namibia, who replaced Cameroon as Group C table-toppers by winning 2-1 in Soweto near Johannesburg.
Senegal, whose penalty shootout victory over Egypt last year brought the Cup of Nations trophy to Dakar for the first time, stretched a perfect group record to four wins.
But it was a much closer contest against Mozambique than last week when the Teranga Lions romped to a 5-1 victory at home.
Mozambique remain second, but will be overtaken if Rwanda win at home to Benin in Kigali on Wednesday.
South Africa ground out a win as Zakhele Lepasa put them ahead, although William Jebor levelled for Liberia before half-time after a blunder by captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.
Another goalkeeping howler, this time by Liberian Thomas Songo, gifted Mayambela the crucial goal eight minutes into the second half.
“It was difficult, but 90 minutes of perseverance got us through,” said South Africa coach Hugo Broos.
“Coping with the physicality of the Liberians was a real challenge. Fortunately, we chose the right players in the right positions and coped.”
Morocco, the first African or Arab nation to reach the World Cup semifinals, did not play because scheduled opponents Zimbabwe were barred due to government interference in the sport.
Cameroon football boss and former star Samuel Eto’o looked on from the stand as a team lacking injured forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Karl Toko Ekambi came off second best.
Shalulile and Absalom Iimbondi scored in the second half for the Brave Warriors before Vincent Aboubakar snatched an added-time consolation goal for the Indomitable Lions.
Namibia have five points and Cameroon four, and both must face Burundi, who have only one point but are not out of the running for a top-two finish.
Algeria clinched qualification from Group F on Monday, but who accompanies them as runners-up is wide open after Uganda upset Tanzania 1-0 in Dar es Salaam through a late Rogers Mato goal.
Tanzania and Uganda have four points each and Niger two with two rounds to come, in June and September.
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah netted as Egypt hammered Malawi 4-0 in Lilongwe to join Guinea at the top of Group D.