Benin refused to play a decisive match in the African Cup of Nations in Sierra Leone on Tuesday after denying that five of its players had tested positive for Covid-19 just before kickoff and should be excluded from the match.
Farsten left the final at next year’s African Cup draw on the last day of the qualifiers. Sierra Leone needed to win at home to reach the tournament for the first time in 25 years. Benin just needed a draw.
The dramatic final qualifying day for the 2021 tournament in Cameroon also saw a referee collapse, leading to a match between Ivory Coast and Ethiopia being abandoned 10 minutes from time.
There were five qualifiers on the way and Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania took four with Benin or Sierra Leone set to join them.
In the Benin game, the positive tests were announced just before the kickoff in Freetown. Two hours after the scheduled start time and with no sign of the Benin team, the Sierra Leone Football Association announced that the game had been suspended and that the Confederation of African Football would have to make a decision on what happens next.
The Benin squad was reportedly already on its way to the airport to take a flight home.
Rows of Covid-19 tests have plagued African football since last year with host national teams and clubs accused of producing false positive results to deprive opponents of stars.
Talks between Sierra Leone, Benin and Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials in Freetown failed to resolve the dispute as both troops remained in their hotels.
Tournament plagued by Covid-19 problems
The competition in the African Cup 2021 has been tormented by teams that cry over local authorities’ Covid-19 tests.
Kenya complained when four key players were judged to be eligible for a qualification in Togo on Monday, even after the test results were announced on the day of the game. Kenyan Federation President Nick Mwendwa said the players forced out of the game had tested negative in Kenya days earlier.
Ivory Coast’s match against Ethiopia on Tuesday ended ten minutes early after Ghanaian referee Charles Bulu collapsed and had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher. The fourth official was from the Ivory Coast and could not judge.
Ivory Coast won 3-1 with goals from Willy Boly, Franck Kessié and Jean Evrard Kouassi when the match ended without more games. Although the Ethiopian Football Federation said the result would be suspended, both teams have qualified.
Despite the loss, Ethiopia went through when Madagascar made it 0-0 with Niger in the second Group K game. Ivory Coast had already reached the final.
Ethiopia, who were 3-1 behind at the time, still qualified as a shock 2019 quarter-finalists Madagascar were held 0-0 in Toamasina and had to settle for third place.
Willy Boly and Franck Kessie gave the Ivorians an advantage with two goals at half time and after Getaneh Kebede reduced the deficit in 74 minutes, Jean Kouassi quickly scored a third goal for the hosts.
Guinea-Bissau beat Congo Brazzaville 3-0 in Bissau to drive them and claim the second Group I ticket to the final behind Senegal.
Piqueti struck the deadlock at halftime and Frederic Mendy and Jorginho netted in the final stages to seal a third straight qualifier.
A Faisal Bangal own-goal condemned Mozambique to a 1-0 defeat in Maputo by Cape Verde, who qualified from Group F behind a Cameroonian team that made it 0-0 with 10-man Rwanda in Douala.
Aboubakar Kamara scored in the first half for Mauritania to win 1-0 over the Central African Republic in Bangui.
In matches where only pride was at stake, Senegal needed a Cheikhou Kouyate goal in stoppage time to save a 1-1 draw with Eswatini in Thies and Nigeria outplayed Lesotho 3-0 in Lagos.
Victor Osimhen netted for the fifth time in the qualifiers to give the Nigerians a half-time advantage stretched by goals from Oghenekaro Etebo and Paul Onuachu.
Group E winner Morocco defeated Burundi 1-0 in another dead rubber with Munir el Haddadi netting just before half-time.
Qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations include:
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe.
Note! Benin or Sierra Leone will complete the list
( Jowharwith AFP and AP)