Zambia boost qualifying hopes with long-awaited win

Zambia beat Guinea-Bissau 2-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match. (AFP pic)

CAPE TOWN: Former continental champions Zambia held out for a 2-1 home win over Guinea-Bissau in Ndola on Wednesday to record their first Group K qualifying victory for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Defender Stoppila Sunzu and striker Justin Shonga scored on both sides of the break to allow Zambia to advance to four points from three games, sharing first place in the group alongside Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ethiopia and Kenya drew 0-0 at the new stadium in Bahir Dar in Group F to kick off seven successive days of qualifying ties for the expanded 24-team finals next year.

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Victor Wanyama returned after suspension to captain Kenya. Both teams squandered chances to score, with Ethiopia’s Shemeles Bekele striking the outside of the post midway through the second half.

Sunzu, who plays for Ligue 2 club Metz, scored from a 17th-minute corner before Shonga doubled the lead with a 52nd minute strike for Zambia, who won the Nations Cup in 2012.

But a mistake from veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene allowed Guinea-Bissau to pull back a late goal through Frédéric Mendy and they had a chance to equalise just before the end, but spurned the opportunity.

On Thursday, Congo host Liberia in Brazzaville in Group G in the only qualifier scheduled, but there are 11 matches on both Friday and Saturday as the preliminary campaign reaches the halfway mark.

The top two finishers in the 12 groups qualify for the finals to be held in Cameroon from June 15 to July 13.