Egypt have come from behind to beat Guinea and secure a record-extending 26th appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Egypt beat Guinea 2-1 on Wednesday to secure top spot in their qualifying group with a game in hand. It is the eighth country to qualify for the 24-team event that will be hosted in the Ivory Coast next year.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Guinea, who needed only a draw to qualify, took the lead in the 26th minute after a slick passing move in the box was finished from close range by Serhou Guirassy.
Almost immediately after the restart, Egypt’s Mahmoud Trezeguet fired a shot that Guinea’s goalkeeper parried. The ball fell to captain Mohamed Salah but the Liverpool forward skied the ball over the crossbar from close range.
However, Salah redeemed himself not long after, playing in Trezeguet from the right, who scored with a neat outside-of-the-foot finish for the equaliser.
Guinea had a few chances in the second half and looked the livelier team until the 78th minute when Mostafa Mohamed received the ball unmarked in the box and fired a fierce shot into the top right of the goal for the winner.
The win ensures Egypt will finish top of Group D and return for another opportunity at the African crown, which they have won a record seven times.
The match took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, where Guinea were forced to move from their home stadium, which was ruled unfit for the competition by the Confederation of African Football inspectors.
Defeat for Guinea, on nine points, opens the door for one of the other two teams in the group, Ethiopia and Malawi, who each have three and play on Tuesday.
The winner of that match then has a chance to catch up, but a draw would see Guinea qualify.
The Gambia, who were the surprise package of the last tournament where they reached the quarter-finals in their debut appearance, strengthened their chances of returning after a dramatic last-gasp goal earned them a 3-2 win over South Sudan.
The Gambia moved to nine points in Group G, sharing top spot with Mali, who are away against Congo in Brazzaville on Sunday.
Guinea Bissau’s 1-0 win over Sao Tome e Principe earlier on Wednesday in the Lusophone derby strengthened their chances of qualifying from Group A, where they have advanced to 10 points after five games with a one-point lead over Nigeria.
Saturday will see a further seven qualifiers played in the penultimate round of matches.