Around Africa: Benin refuse to play in Covid row, referee collapses in Ivory Coast
JOHANNESBURG - Benin refused to play a key Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Sierra Leone on Tuesday after challenging positive Covid-19 tests for five of their players.
A dramatic final day of qualifying for the 2021 tournament in Cameroon also saw a referee collapse, leading to a match between the Ivory Coast and Ethiopia being abandoned 10 minutes from time.
There were five qualifying places up for grabs and Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania took four with Benin or Sierra Leone set to join them.
Rows over 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.
The Sierra Leone 🇸![CDATA]>🇱 vs 🇧![CDATA]>🇯 Benin game will not take place tonight in Freetown after negotiations between both parties failed to yield much.— Usher Komugisha (@UsherKomugisha) March 30, 2021
6 Benin players were declared COVID-19 positive but the team contested the results. The FIFA international window closes today. #AFCON2021Q pic.twitter.com/KyynWlxI4t
Talks between Sierra Leone, Benin and Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials in Freetown failed to resolve the standoff as both squads remained in their hotels.
Benin hold a three-point lead over Sierra Leone in Group L and both teams have a chance of finishing runners-up to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Ghanaian referee Charles Bulu collapsed 80 minutes into a Group K match in Abidjan and was removed on a stretcher and taken to hospital. His condition was not immediately known.
Originally chosen as the fourth official, Bulu handled the game because a fellow Ghanaian failed to arrive at the match venue.
The referee of the AFCON qualifier between Cote d'Ivoire and Ethiopia fell ill in the 80th minute. No referee could replace him, as the 4th referee was an Ivorian & couldn't officiate a match involving his country.— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) March 30, 2021
The match ended at the 80th minute with a win for Cote d'Ivoire. pic.twitter.com/1lJ3GFxW3e
An Ivorian was drafted in as the fourth official, but Ethiopia questioned his neutrality as a replacement for Bulu and refused to continue playing.
- Madagascar fail -
Ethiopia, who were trailing 3-1 at the time, still qualified as 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 a two-goal half-time advantage and after Getaneh Kebede reduced arrears on 74 minutes, Jean Kouassi quickly scored a third goal for the hosts.
Guinea-Bissau beat Congo Brazzaville 3-0 in Bissau to overtake them and claim the second Group I ticket to the finals behind Senegal.
Piqueti broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time and Frederic Mendy and Jorginho netted in the closing stages to seal a third straight qualification.
A Faisal Bangal own-goal condemned Mozambique to a 1-0 defeat in Maputo by Cape Verde, who qualified from Group F behind a Cameroon team that drew 0-0 with 10-man Rwanda in Douala.
Aboubakar Kamara scored in first-half stoppage time for Mauritania to earn a 1-0 win over the Central African Republic in Bangui.
In matches where only pride was at stake, Senegal needed a stoppage-time Cheikhou Kouyate goal to salvage a 1-1 draw with Eswatini in Thies and Nigeria outplayed Lesotho 3-0 in Lagos.
Victor Osimhen netted for the fifth time in qualifying to give the Nigerians a half-time advantage that was stretched by goals from Oghenekaro Etebo and Paul Onuachu.
Group E winners Morocco defeated Burundi 1-0 in another dead rubber with Munir el Haddadi netting just before half-time.