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AFCON U-23 Qualifying: Ivory Coast and Tunisia eliminated, South Africa and Nigeria advance

The Second Round of 2023 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations qualifying is complete following the weekend with fourteen teams now set to compete for seven spots in the tournament finals along with hosts Morocco. There was plenty at stake with the AFCON U-23 also serving as the qualifying competition for the 2024 Summer Olympics and several teams were eliminated earlier than expected. Among those teams are Algeria, Tunisia and Ivory Coast who were all sent out by narrow margins after failing to get the results they needed at home.

Two favorites who did get the job done at home are Ghana and Nigeria. Ghana’s Black Meteors had a 2-1 first leg result and confirmed their spot in the Third Round with no issues thanks to a first half goal from Sylvester Simba followed by Hearts of Oak star Daniel Afriyie Barnieh’s third penalty kick conversion of the series. Nigerian supporters needed a positive result from their team at home against Tanzania with the Nigeria Football Federation and Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde promising increased prize money. The Olympic Eagles obliged with a 2-0 result and will face Guinea for their spot in Morocco.

For Algeria and Tunisia it was too little too late in their home second leg encounters following first leg defeats. Algeria lost 4-1 in Kinshasa to DR Congo and got off to a good start at home, going up 2-0 before Patient Mwamba gave the Congolese a massive away goal in the 58th minute that was enough for the Leopards to hold off the hosts for a 3-1 result and 5-4 aggregate victory. Tunisia were in a winning position after taking a 2-0 lead at home to go ahead 2-1 on aggregate against Republic of Congo but a crucial goalkeeping error allowed Les Diables Rouges to score in the final ten minutes and advance on the away goals rule.

The biggest surprise came in Yamoussoukro where Ivory Coast are out at the hands of Niger. Abdoul Kairou’s header soon after halftime gave the Ménas the away goal they needed to hold off their Ivorian hosts for a 1-1 result, clinching Niger’s spot in the Third Round following a 0-0 first leg result. Benin also failed to advance at home, conceding a crucial away goal to Sudan in their 3-1 victory to lose on the away goal after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate goals.

Mali defeated Rwanda 1-0 to win 2-1 on aggregate and Zambia won by the same result to advance past Sierra Leone. South Africa’s 0-0 draw at home against Togo was enough to advance on away goals and Gabon confirmed a decisive victory over Madagascar by winning 4-0 at home. Senegal snuck by Burkina Faso on penalty kicks after both legs ended scoreless and Egypt edged Eswatini 1-0 on a goal that appeared to be offsides but was not seen by the linesperson.

All of the scores and matchups for the Third Round are below followed by highlights from many of the second leg matches over the weekend.

Scores

Zambia 1-0 Sierra Leone

Zambia win 2-1 on aggregate

Gabon 4-0 Madagascar

Gabon win 5-0 on aggregate

Nigeria 2-0 Tanzania

Nigeria win 3-1 on aggregate

Mali 1-0 Rwanda

Mali win 2-1 on aggregate

Ivory Coast 1-1 Niger

Tied 1-1 on aggregate; Niger advance on away goal rule

Senegal 0-0 Burkina Faso

Tied 0-0 on aggregate; Senegal win 5-4 in penalty shootout

South Africa 0-0 Togo

Tied 2-2 on aggregate; South Africa advance on away goals

Tunisia 2-1 Republic of Congo

Tied 2-2 on aggregate; Congo advance on away goals

Ghana 2-0 Mozambique

Ghana advance 4-1 on aggregate

Cameroon 0-0 Angola

Cameroon advance 3-2 on aggregate

Benin 3-1 Sudan

Tied 3-3 on aggregate; Sudan advance on away goals

Algeria 3-1 DR Congo

DR Congo advance 5-4 on aggregate

Egypt 1-0 Eswatini

Egypt advance 1-0 on aggregate

Third Round Matchups

Niger vs. Sudan

Nigeria vs. Guinea

Egypt vs. Zambia

South Africa vs. Congo

DR Congo vs. Ghana

Senegal vs. Mali

Gabon vs. Cameroon

The Third Round will be played from March 20 to March 28.

Highlights

Ghana 2-0 Mozambique

Ivory Coast 1-1 Niger

Senegal 0-0 Burkina Faso (Penalty Shootout)

Tunisia 2-1 Republic of Congo

Mali 1-0 Rwanda

Benin 3-1 Sudan

Egypt 1-0 Eswatini

Zambia 1-0 Sierra Leone

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