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2023 AFCON U-23 Qualifying: Gabon qualify via penalty shootout, Fatawu sends Ghana past Algeria

Five teams secured their tickets to the 2023 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations on Tuesday with a few surprise results in a day that featured plenty of drama. Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and clinched their spots at the finals that will take place in Morocco starting in late June while African powers including Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal were all eliminated at the final hurdle. The five teams who secured qualification join hosts Morocco, Egypt and Republic of Congo in the finals where the top three teams will represent Africa at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

The opening matchup on Tuesday saw Cameroon overturn a one-goal deficit from the first leg by winning 1-0 over Gabon in Yaoundé courtesy of a goal from Etienne Eto’o. However with the match tied 1-1 on aggregate, a penalty kick shootout was required to separate the teams and Gabon kept their nerve to win 7-6 in an ending that was filled with tension as well as joy and agony.

Ghana earned a crucial away goal in their first leg matchup against Algeria thanks to the heroics of playmaker Abdul Fatawu Issahaku and the Sporting CP player was instrumental again for the Black Meteors on Tuesday. Fatawu headed in an Ernest Nuamah cross in the 12th minute that stood as the winner to advance Ghana to the finals by a 2-1 aggregate score.

After a 3-1 first leg victory, qualification looked secure for Senegal but the West African titans were stunned by Mali at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako. Mali scored three goals over a span of ten minutes in the second half to overturn the deficit and send Les Aigles through at the expense of a talented Senegalese side.

Mali were joined by neighbors Guinea who made Nigeria pay for a poor first leg performance, winning 2-0 to advance by the same score on aggregate despite being forced to play their home second leg in Morocco. Niger were the last team to secure passage to the finals with a 2-1 victory away from home at the Al-Hilal Stadium against Sudan, giving the Ménas their first ever qualification for the AFCON U-23.

Highlights from the second leg matches that saw Gabon, Ghana and Mali advance are below.

Scores

Cameroon 1-0 Gabon

(Tied 1-1 on aggregate; Gabon advance 7-6 in penalty shootout)

Ghana 1-0 Algeria

(Ghana win 2-1 on aggregate)

Guinea 2-0 Nigeria

(Guinea win 2-0 on aggregate)

Mali 3-0 Senegal

(Mali win 4-3 on aggregate)

Sudan 1-2 Niger

(Niger win 2-1 on aggregate)

Highlights

Ghana 1-0 Algeria

Cameroon 1-0 Gabon (Highlights and Penalties)

Mali 3-0 Senegal

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