By Gerald Imray
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE TOWN, South Africa _ South Africa qualified for the African Cup of Nations on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Sudan in the team’s first game since the killing of captain Senzo Meyiwa.
Cameroon and Zambia also secured their places in the finals early next year, bringing the number of qualified teams to six alongside new tournament host Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana lost 1-0 in Uganda and Mali fell 2-0 in Malawi to keep them waiting until the final round of qualifying games next week following those surprise away losses.
South African players wore black armbands and there was a moment’s silence before the Sudan game for goalkeeper Meyiwa, who was fatally shot in an apparent house robbery in a township near Johannesburg last month. The Sudanese team even held up a picture of the popular Meyiwa before kickoff at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in its own tribute.
Bafana Bafana then sealed their place in Equatorial Guinea early next year with goals by Thulani Serero and Tokelo Rantie either side of halftime. Salah Ibrahim pulled a late goal back for Sudan in front of just over 30,000 fans in Durban. The game was moved to the east coast city, Meyiwa’s hometown, in honour of the late goalkeeper.
Meyiwa had led South Africa through four games unbeaten in African Cup qualifying and hadn’t conceded a goal in the competition before his shooting death. On Saturday, smiling South African players pulled off their team jerseys to reveal white T-shirts with messages of remembrance for Meyiwa as they celebrated their qualification.
“Well, I just wish he was here with us,” South Africa goalkeeper Darren Keet, who replaced Meyiwa in the lineup, said. “That’s what makes it the most emotional. He’s not here with us and everything is done. His memory will stay with us.”
Four-time champion Cameroon made sure of a place at the 2015 African Cup finals with a 1-0 win over Congo after Vincent Aboubakar’s 71st-minute winner. That ensured the Cameroonians will finish top of Group D, with Ivory Coast and Congo left to battle it out for the second automatic spot from the group.
Zambia, the 2012 African Cup winner, qualified alongside Cape Verde from Group F after a 1-0 win in Mozambique.
Ghana was upset in Uganda and Mali suffered a bigger shock when it lost in Malawi.
A rebound looped into the corner of Mali’s net for the opening goal in the 65th for Malawi’s Robert Ng’ambi. Essau Kanyenda then powered a header home with four minutes to go to give the Malawians one of their most memorable recent victories, sending thousands of red-shirted fans jumping up and down as one in the concrete stands at Kamuzu Stadium.
Algeria, Cape Verde and Tunisia had already qualified before Saturday, while Equatorial Guinea was named the new tournament host in place of Morocco.
Fifteen teams will qualify for the Jan. 17-Feb. 8 finals alongside the new host.
AP writer Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre, Malawi contributed to this report.