Abuja (AFP) – Former African champions Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia all lost at home Saturday on a day of upsets in the first qualifying round for the 2019 Cup of Nations.
Three–time champions Nigeria lost a competitive game against South Africa for the first time when they fell 2-0 in the southern Nigerian town of Uyo in Group E.
While in Group H the Ivory Coast, who had vowed to win in memory of former team-mate Cheick Tiote, who collapsed and died in China this week, slumped 3-2 to fellow west Africans Guinea in Bouake.
Zambia, champions in 2012, fell 1-0 at home to a daring Mozambican side in Group K.
New South Africa coach Stuart Baxter labelled his team the underdogs going by their poor head-to-head record against Nigeria.
But goals by Tokelo Rantie and substitute Percy Tau in the second half sunk the home team and the visitors were unlucky not to have scored more goals in the Group E clash.
“My young team tried their best, there was a mistake for the first goal and the second goal was a gift,” admitted Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr.
Libya top Group E after a 5-1 spanking of Seychelles on Friday in Cairo, Egypt.
In Bouake, the Elephants of Ivory Coast went down to Guinea despite a brace by Seydou Doumbia.
Germany-based striker Naby Keita fired the winner for Guinea in the 79th minute.
Zambia also got off to a losing start on the road to Cameroon 2019 when they lost for the first time to Mozambique at home.
Stanley Ratifo grabbed the last-gasp match winner when he stabbed home a low cross.
Before then, Chipolopolo goalkeeper and captain Kennedy Mweene had to pull off a point-blank save to deny the visitors.
Guinea-Bissau, shock qualifiers for the 2017 Cup of Nations, edged past Namibia thanks to a Jerson goal on 24 minutes in the other Group K fixture.
Cameroon and Malawi both won in Group B. Reigning champions Cameroon pipped Morocco 1-0 in Yaounde while Malawi beat the Comoros by the same scoreline in Blantyre.
In Group I, the Zebras of Botswana lost 1-0 to Mauritania in front of their fans in Francistown after they failed to put away many chances.
This gutsy contest was decided on 78 minutes when substitute Abdoulaye Soudani controlled a long ball before firing past the Botswana goalkeeper.
Hosts Burkina Faso won the other Group I tie against Angola 3-1 with big striker Aristide Bance bagging a brace.