*Egypt, Tunisia, others book tickets to Cameroon 2019
A goal from Thailand-based Njiva Rakotoharimalala yesterday qualified Madagascar for her first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals.
The 26-year-old midfielder scored the only goal of the game just before half-time as the Malagasy beat visiting Equatorial Guinea.
They became the first team to qualify for a place in the finals that have now been expanded from 16 teams to 24 for future tournaments.
They were later joined by Egypt and Tunisia in qualifying for the finals in Cameroon next June and July.
Madagascar’s win over Equatorial Guinea moved them to ten points in Group A with two matches left to play.
The game was played in the city of Vontovorona after Madagascar was banned from using the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo for “three matches or three months”.
The suspension was imposed by the Confederation of Africa Football following a stampede at the national stadium in September when one person was killed and nearly 40 others were injured.
Madagascar becomes the 40th different nation to qualify for the Nations Cup finals.
Egypt and Tunisia helped each other to qualify for next year’s expanded finals as they both won in Group J.
First of all Egypt secured a 2-0 win over eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) thanks to a headed goal from Ahmed Hegazi after 19 minutes and well worked team goal that was finished by Marwan Mohsen early in the second half.
The Pharaohs qualification was confirmed later on Tuesday as Tunisia maintained their 100 per cent winning record with a 2-1 win over Niger 2-1 in Niamey.
Sfaxien’s Firas Chaouat scored two goals in a four-minute period in the first-half on his international debut for Tunisia.
Niger Youssef Oumarou grabbed what turned out to be a consolation for the hosts.
Tunisia top the pool with a maximum 12 points, Egypt have nine points while Niger and eSwatini are now out of contention for the finals on a single point apiece.
There were two drawn matches in Group B as Comoros grabbed a 2-2 against visiting Morocco and Malawi held Cameroon to a goalless draw in Blantyre.
El Fardou Ben Mohamed, who plays for Serbian side Red Star Belgrade, opened the scoring after just eight minutes to give Comoros a shock lead.
The Moroccans then fought back with two second-half goals from Khalid Boutaib and Nordin Amrabaat to take the lead.
The hosts kept battling and Ben Mohamed was on target again in injury time at the end of the match to earn a point for Comoros.
Group B after four matches:
Cameroon 8 points (qualify as hosts)
Morocco 7 points
Malawi 4 points
Comoros 2 points
The results mean that Cameroon top the group with eight points, but they have qualified automatically as the Nations Cup hosts leaving just one more place up for grabs from the group.
Morocco leads the way in the race to the finals on seven points, Malawi move to four points and Comoros are on two – with all the teams having played four matches.
Three teams remain in contention to qualify from Group C after Gabon beat hosts South Sudan 1-0 and Burundi held visiting Mali to a 1-1 draw.
Midfielder Andre Biyogo Poko, who plays in Turkey for Goztepe, won the match for Gabon with a goal five minutes after half-time.
Gabon played without Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he did not travel with the team to Juba, no official reason has been given for his decision.
Burundi took the lead in Bujumbura through striker Fiston Abdul Razak before Mamadou Fofana levelled the score for the visitors.
Group C after four matches:
Mali 8 points
Gabon 7 points
Burundi 6 points
South Sudan 0 points (eliminated)
Guinea and Ivory Coast remain the favourites to qualify from Group H despite both being held to away draws.
Ivory Coast was held to a goalless draw in Bangui by Central African Republic while in Kigali it was 1-1 between Rwanda and Guinea.
Guinea took the lead in the first-half by Jose Kante but Jacques Tuyisenge ensured the points were shared with a late equaliser.
The Syli Nationale had to play the second-half without Liverpool’s Naby Keita, who had to be helped from the pitch with an injury.
Wins for both Guinea and Ivory Coast would have taken both teams through to next year’s finals.
The results mean that Guinea top the group with 10 points, Ivory Coast have seven, CAR are on four and Rwanda bottom with a single point.
Uganda took a big step towards qualifying for second successive Nations Cup as neighbours Tanzania kept their hopes alive in Group L.
Croatia-based striker Farouk Miya scored both goals for Uganda as they beat hosts Lesotho 2-0.
His first in Maseru came after just six minutes and he added a second from curling freekick ten minutes before half-time.
Tanzania recovered from a missed penalty to record a 2-0 win over Cape Verde in Dar Es Salaam.
Saimon Msuva tapped in from close range for the first with Mbwana Samatta, who plays in Belgium with Genk, added the second.
The Uganda Cranes now lead the way with 10 points in the group, Tanzania move to five one ahead of Cape Verde with Lesotho bottom on two.
There are two more qualifying rounds left to play one in November and the final matches will be in March next year.