LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Senegal reached the African Nations Cup quarter-finals for the first time in more than a decade after a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe on Thursday ensured the continent’s highest-ranked team would finish top of Group B.
Algeria, who were also among the pre-tournament favourites, are on the verge of an early exit, after they were beaten 2-1 by Tunisia in the group’s other game.
The Algerians need to beat Senegal in their final match on Monday and hope that Tunisia, who meet Zimbabwe, do not secure the point they need to go through as group runners-up.
Senegal had been among the fancied teams in their last three appearances at the tournament, but flopped on each occasion. They last got past the first round in 2006, when they went on to finish fourth.
“The goal today was to qualify, now it’s done,” said coach Aliou Cisse after early goals settled the game.
“In the first game, even when we played badly, we got to win. Today, we played well and won, and we qualified. I’m very proud of the guys, we have to keep going like that.”
Sadio Mane took only nine minutes to open the scoring with a simple back post tap-in and Senegal doubled the lead with a sumptuous curling free kick from Henri Saivet four minutes later as Zimbabwe were overwhelmed.
Horror defending cost Algeria against Tunisia as captain Aissa Mandi netted an own goal and defender Faouzi Ghoulam conceded a penalty.
The ball sliced off the foot of Mandi after 50 minutes before Ghoulam tugged back Wahbi Khazri 14 minutes later and Naim Sliti converted from the spot.
“We started very well. But we know that in a game of this level, you should not give away gifts,” said Algeria coach George Leekens.
Sofiane Hanni pulled one back in stoppage time, but Algeria’s fate had already been sealed.
“We did a great job. They have top players who play all in Europe, we have three or four in Europe and the others play in Tunisia,” said Tunisia’s defender Aymen Abdennour.
The Democratic Republic of Congo can become the second side to secure a place in the last eight if they upset holders Ivory Coast in Oyem on Friday.
The Group C encounter is followed by a meeting between Morocco and Togo.
Editing by Toby Davis