After qualification for the 2022 finals in Algeria ended on Sunday, South Africa and Nigeria will be noticeable omissions from the African Nations Championship.
After a 2-2 overall tie, Ghana edged out Nigeria on penalties, while South Africa was defeated 4-1 at home by Angola, who won the tournament 6-1 overall.
Senegal, Morocco, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast are among the top nations represented at the seventh iteration of the competition for home-based stars.
In falling behind 2-0 after the first leg, Nigeria mounted a late comeback in Abuja to defeat their opponents 2-0 in the second leg thanks to goals from Zulkifilu Rabiu and Chijioke Akuneto, who converted a late penalty.
Maurice Ugochukwu missed, and Ghana made all five of its penalty penalties in the shootout to knock out the 2018 runners-up, Nigeria.
After failing to qualify for the previous three editions, Ghana, a two-time finalist that was defeated, returned to the finals with the dramatic triumph.
Despite having one of the strongest national leagues in Africa, Nigeria has only made it to the finals three times, and one of their shocking qualification defeats came in 2020 against Togo.
In Soweto, South Africa got off to a great start with Prince Nxumalo halving the aggregate deficit by nodding home a free-kick just six minutes into the first half.
On minute 39, however, a headed clearance effort by Mosa Lebusa went horribly wrong for the home team when it looped over goalie Reyaad Pieterse and into his own net.
Due to the loss of key players to club duty, South Africa was left having to score three goals in a row to survive.
With Jaredi Teixeira posing a continuous threat on the left wing, Angola grew more powerful as the second half went on.
He assisted Deivi Viera and Daniel Kilola in scoring the second and fourth goals, and Joaquim Paciencia scored the third goal with a free kick that deflected off the underside of the crossbar.
Cameroon, which was ranked fourth when the 2020 event was played there, defeated Equatorial Guinea 2-0 late in the first half to advance.
In the northwest city of Garoua, Djawal Kaiba broke the scoreless tie after 43 minutes, and Souaaibou Marou scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time.
The Ivory Coast’s victory over Burkina Faso on penalties after the first and second legs were tied at 0-0 was an even tighter call.
Madagascar, a country in the Indian Ocean, will be the only participant in the tournament for the first time; after being tied 1-1 in Antananarivo against Botswana, they advanced 2-1 overall.
FIFA considers Nations Championship contests to be full internationals, and the outcomes are used to determine its global rankings.
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