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Mali and Benin clinch African Nations Cup places

12 October 2007 21:21

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Mali and Benin qualified for the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana after a tense climax to Group 9 on Friday.

Mamadou Diallo scored in injury time to seal a 2-0 win for Mali over Togo in Lome while Benin triumphed by the same score in Sierra Leone with Oumar Tchomogo on target twice.

Mali finished first on the final standings with 12 points from three victories and three draws and automatically qualified for the biennial tournament.

And Benin pipped Uganda for the last of three places reserved for the best runners-up thanks to a superior goal difference - plus six against plus five - after both collected 11 points.

Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia and Zambia qualified last month and the final slot will be filled on Saturday.

Defending champions Egypt, who edged Ivory Coast on penalties after a goalless final in Cairo last year, will top Group 2 provided they avoid defeat at home to minnows Botswana.

Hosts and four-time champions Ghana qualify automatically for a tournament to be staged at four venues in the west African nation between January 20 and February 10.

Mali atoned for failing to reach the 2006 Nations Cup with a heroic performance before a capacity 30,000 crowd willing Togo to a second consecutive finals appearance.

Frederic Kanoute from Uefa Cup and Spanish Cup holders Sevilla broke the deadlock after 38 minutes in the Togolese capital by heading home a Bassala Toure cross.

Lesser known Diallo, who plays for a Qatari club, put the outcome beyond doubt two minutes into stoppage time as the Malian Eagles emphasised their superiority over the Togolese Hawks having won 1-0 in Bamako last year.

Togo had pinned their hopes on Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored an English Premiership hat-trick against Derby recently, but he was closely watched on his return after missing two group games due to a bonus row.

Benin travelled north to Sierra Leone knowing maximum points would secure a place at the finals either as group winners, if the match in Lome was drawn, or as one of lucky runners-up.

And it took the Benin Squirrels just 10 minutes to score against the run of play when a shot from Portugal-based striker Oumar Tchomogo was deflected into the net.

Undeterred by the setback, Sierra Leone pressed forward continuously only to be let down by poor finishing from Umaru Bangoura, Julius Woobay and Foday Camara.

A lively second half brought no change of luck for the wasteful Leone Stars and Tchomogo pounced on a weak back pass to increase the lead with 65 minutes gone.

The result dashed Ugandan dreams of a first appearance at the Nations Cup since 1978 when the Cranes reached the final only to lose 2-0 against hosts Ghana in Accra.

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