Senegal, South Africa qualify

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Defending champion Senegal and South Africa became the latest teams to qualify for the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday.

Senegal registered a fourth win in four games in Group L after forward Boulaye Dia’s 18th-minute goal secured a 1-0 victory over Mozambique, giving the Senegalese a chance to defend their title next year in Ivory Coast.

South Africa’s chances hung by a thread after it blew a 2-0 lead at home against Liberia to draw 2-2 last week, but Bafana Bafana won Tuesday’s return game 2-1 in Monrovia. Midfielder Mihlali Mayambela sent South Africa to the African Cup in just his fourth appearance for his country when his goal early in the second half broke a 1-1 deadlock.

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Morocco had already qualified from Group K, with South Africa clinching the other place in the group.

Algeria has also already qualified for the 24-team African Cup, which was supposed to be played in June and July this year but was postponed to January-February 2024 by the Confederation of African Football because of fears that Ivory Coast’s midyear rainy season would spoil the tournament.

The African Cup returning to its January-February slot is likely to cause more friction with top European clubs, who will again lose their best African players midway through their seasons.

The last African Cup in Cameroon in 2022 was also meant to be played in June-July to avoid a clash with the European season but was also moved to the start of the year because of Cameroon’s monsoon rains.