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AFCON 2023: Nigeria qualify, Ghana stumble & Gabon lose

AFCON 2023 qualifiers saw Kelechi Iheanacho score a 95th-minute winner as Nigeria survived a scare to beat Sierra Leone 3-2 and secure qualification for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.


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Victor Osimhen, Serie A’s top scorer with 26 goals as Napoli won the title last season, put Nigeria 2-0 up inside 32 minutes with a deft lob and a close-range finish.

Sierra Leone, playing in Liberia because they do not have an international stadium, levelled through Mustapha Bundu and Augustus Kargbo.

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But Leicester City striker Iheanacho poked home the winner to secure qualification and send Guinea-Bissau through as Group A runners-up.

Aubameyang’s Gabon return falls flat

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s international return did not go to plan as Gabon lost 2-0 at home to the Democratic Republic of Congo – a result which lifted DRC from the bottom to the top of Group I.

Chelsea striker Aubameyang, Gabon’s record scorer with 23 goals in 69 games, announced his international retirement in May 2022 before a meeting with Gabon president Ali Bongo Ondimba persuaded him to change his mind.

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Gabon are second in a group from which all four teams can qualify, but they must beat Sudan in the final round of games in September to go through.

Goalless Ghana made to wait

Ghana missed out on qualifying with a game to spare as they were held 0-0 in Madagascar.

Two points separate the Group E leaders from Angola in the second and third-placed Central African Republic, whom they host on 3 September.

The Central African Republic, who could also have qualified, lost 2-1 at home to Angola.

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Patson Daka and Kings Kangwa struck and Serge Aurier scored an own goal as Zambia beat hosts Ivory Coast 3-0 in Ndola to seal their Afcon place.

A late penalty gave Equatorial Guinea an impressive 1-0 win against Tunisia in Malabo that secure a second successive Afcon qualification, while Cape Verde, with a population less than 600,000, will make their fourth appearance at the tournament following a 3-1 home win over Group B winners Burkina Faso.

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Mali secured the top spot in Group G with a 2-0 win in Congo-Brazzaville, who face a winner-takes-all clash with the Gambia for the runners-up spot.

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Hosts Ivory Coast, holders Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia had already secured their spot in the 24-team Afcon, which was postponed to January next year because of the summer rainy season in West Africa.


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