FOOTBALL: BURKINA FASO QUALIFY AS CHAMPIONS EGYPT ELIMINATED
by David Legge
Burkina Faso booked a place at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Saturday without kicking a ball while defending champions Egypt will be shock absentees from the tournament after losing in Sierra Leone.
Namibia upset visiting Gambia 1-0 to give the Burkinabe an unassailable six-point Group F advantage while Egypt remained bottom of Group G after a late penalty condemned them to a 2-1
After collecting just two points from four previous qualifiers, Egypt believed they had no chance of reaching a tournament they won three consecutive times since 2006 and sent Olympic and youth team stars to west Africa.
Libya reflected the political changes in the country by wearing a new strip and singing a new national anthem before defeating Mozambique 1-0 in neutral Cairo to replace Zambia as Group C leaders.
Former champions Tunisia took a giant stride toward joining Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Botswana and co-hosts Gabon and Equatorial Guinea at the 2012 finals by forcing a 0-0 draw at closest Group K rivals Malawi.
Cameroon, another African football power in danger of missing the Cup of Nations, trounced Mauritius 5-0 in Group E to keep alive slim hopes of making the 16-team Cup of Nations next January and February.
The absence of star striker Didier Drogba, who suffered concussion playing for Chelsea last weekend, did not prevent Ivory Coast raising their Group H goal haul to 17 from five games with a 5-0 Kigali drubbing of Rwanda.
Dennis Oliech struck in stoppage time to snatch a 2-1 home win for Kenya over Guinea Bissau in Group J while Algeria came from behind under new Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic to force a 1-1
Group D draw in Tanzania.
South Africa-based midfielder Tangeni Shipahu became the unlikely toast of Burkina Faso by scoring the 83rd-minute winner that gave the home team a rare competitive victory after three consecutive pool losses.
Sheriff Suma put Sierra Leone into an early lead, Mohsen Marwan levelled on the stroke of half-time and it looked like the ‘Baby Pharaohs’ would escape with a point until Mohamed Bangura converted an 89th-minute spot kick.
Victory lifted Sierra Leone to eight points and a share of first place with South Africa, who face Niger in sauna-like Niamey Sunday without injured captain and midfielder Steven Pienaar.
Rabi al-Lafi struck on 31 minutes behind closed doors to lift Libya two points above Zambia, who are away to Comoros Islands Sunday before hosting the North Africans in the final series.
Tunisia lead Malawi on goal difference in the race to finish runners-up behind Botswana and appear likely to stay second as they host Togo in the final round while their rivals must visit Chad.
Senegal have home advantage over the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali host Cape Verde Islands later Saturday and there are another 10 fixtures Sunday in the penultimate series of qualifiers.