Nations Cup surprise team Gambia edge ahead of Chad in 2023 qualifiers

Johannesburg (AFP) – Gambia, the underdog who have taken Africa by storm this year by reaching the quarter-finals of the Nations Cup, edged Chad 1-0 on Wednesday in their first leg to the final of 2023.

The Scorpions left it late in Yaoundé with UAE-based striker Steve Trawally scoring in the 89th minute to win the first leg of the preliminary round.

The Gambia, a small West African nation surrounded by Senegal, made their spectacular Nations Cup debut two months ago, beating Mauritania, Tunisia and Guinea before losing a knockout round to Cameroon, host country.

Before taking on Chad, Belgium-born Gambian coach Tom Saintfiet warned his players to avoid becoming “tournament wonderkids”.

“We want to qualify for the 2023 and 2025 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2026 World Cup,” said the coach who has guided national teams in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

He cited the example of Madagascar, newcomers who surprised Nigeria by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019 Nations Cup in Egypt only to miss the last edition.

Chad hosted Gambia in the Cameroonian capital because the landlocked Central African Republic does not have a stadium that meets international standards.

The Gambia are also affected by a crackdown by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on venues with substandard pitches, changing rooms or facilities and will stage the second leg on Tuesday in Morocco.

Mauritius is the only nation among the 10 of the preliminary round to have been allowed to play at home.

The Indian Ocean nation will face fellow island nation Sao Tome e Principe on Thursday and will host both matches in St. Pierre as their opponents conceded home advantage.

South Sudan scored four second-half goals to defeat Djibouti 4-2 in the ancient Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Tito Okello gave the Sudanese the lead in the 54th minute by converting a penalty after being fouled and after Djibouti equalized, Rashid Toha, Okello and William Gama scored for the winners.

Djibouti finished scoring in added time but face a huge task in Uganda on Sunday if they hope to survive an early exit.

Eswatini nearly sealed a place in the 48-nation group stage, which begins in June, by punishing sloppy Somalia who triumphed 3-0 in Dar es Salaam.

Bonginkosi Dlamini reacted quickest to a low cross for the only goal of the first half and Fanelo Mamba flicked the ball over the rushing keeper to double the lead midway through the second half.

Sandile Gamedze completed the rout three minutes from time, firing a low shot into the corner of the net in the Tanzanian commercial capital.

Seychellois goalkeeper Alvin Michel saved a penalty from Lehlohonolo Fothoane in a 0-0 draw against Lesotho in Saint-Pierre.

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