Johannesburg (AFP) – Gambia, the outsiders who took Africa by storm this year when reaching the Cup of Nations quarter-finals, edged Chad 1-0 on Wednesday in their first step toward reaching the 2023 finals.
The Scorpions left it late in Yaounde with United Arab Emirates-based forward Steve Trawally scoring in the 89th minute to win the preliminary round first leg.
Gambia, a small west African country surrounded by Senegal, made a spectacular Cup of Nations debut two months ago, beating Mauritania, Tunisia and Guinea before losing a last-eight clash with hosts Cameroon.
Before tackling Chad, Belgium-born Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet warned his players to avoid become “one-tournament wonders”.
“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 stunned Nigeria when reaching the 2019 Cup of Nations quarter-finals in Egypt only to miss out on the latest edition.
Chad hosted Gambia in the Cameroon capital because the landlocked central African does not have a stadium that meets international standards.
Gambia are also affected by a Confederation of African Football (CAF) clampdown on venues with sub-standard pitches, dressing rooms or facilities and will stage the return match on Tuesday in Morocco.
Mauritius are the only nation among the 10 in the preliminary round who have been permitted to play at home.
The Indian Ocean country face another island nation, Sao Tome e Principe, on Thursday and will stage both legs in Saint-Pierre as their opponents have conceded home advantage.
South Sudan scored four second-half goals to defeat Djibouti 4-2 in ancient Egyptian Mediterranean city Alexandria.
Tito Okello gave the Sudanese a 54th-minute lead by converting a penalty having been fouled and after Djibouti levelled, Rashid Toha, Okello and William Gama netted for the winners.
Djibouti completed the scoring in added time, but face a massive task in Uganda on Sunday if they hope to survive an early exit.
Eswatini all but sealed a place in the 48-nation group stage, which kicks off during June, by punishing sloppy Somalia defending to triumph 3-0 in Dar es Salaam.
Bonginkosi Dlamini reacted quickest to a low cross for the only first-half goal and Fanelo Mamba chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper 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.
Seychelles goalkeeper Alvin Michel saved a Lehlohonolo Fothoane penalty in a 0-0 draw against Lesotho in Saint-Pierre.
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