AFCON 2023: Sao Tome, Lesotho, others reach group phase of qualifying

SAO Tome and Principe booked a place in the group phase of qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a 4-3 aggregate win over hosts Mauritius on Sunday.

Ricardo Cardoso’s brace and a goal from Luis Leal helped Sao Tome draw 3-3 in Saint-Pierre to secure the overall victory, having won last week’s first leg 1-0.

They join Lesotho, Eswatini and South Sudan in the next phase of qualifying, with the Gambia and Chad set to play their second leg last night.

Sao Tome and Principe, who lack an international-standard stadium, were forced to play both legs of their preliminary round tie in Mauritius.

Leal, 34, the best known Sao Tomean footballer, scored the only goal of the first leg on Thursday, which counted as their ‘home’ fixture.

In an eventful second leg, Mauritius took the lead through a Kevin Bru penalty, but they trailed 2-1 at half-time after Cardoso and Leal struck.

Australia-born Dylan Collard equalised for Mauritius only for Cardoso to score again just two minutes later, leaving the home side needing at least two more goals in 30 minutes to survive.

However, Mauritius managed only one, from Ashley Nazira on 86 minutes, and the country that qualified once for the Cup of Nations – 48 years ago – were eliminated.

Sao Tome are ranked 189th in the world and 50th in Africa, and are among 10 countries who have never qualified for the biennial Cup of Nations, which Cote d’Ivoire will host in 2023.

Elsewhere, Katleho Makateng celebrated only his second appearance for Lesotho by opening and closing the scoring in a 3-1 win over the Seychelles in Soweto. The first leg ended goalless.

In another return match staged in South Africa, Eswatini beat Somalia 2-1 in Mbombela after establishing a 3-0 first-leg advantage last week.

Sabelo Ndzinisa and Fanelo Mamba struck early in the second half for Eswatini and Somali Omar Jama halved the deficit in added time.

Like Eswatini, South Sudan found the going a little tougher second time round as they edged Djibouti 1-0 in Kampala having won the first leg 4-2. Peter Choi scored the only goal on 55 minutes.

Lesotho, Eswatini and South Sudan had to stage their home matches in neutral countries as they lack international-standard stadiums. – BBC

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