Giantkillers Comoros, population 1 million, have faced a nailbiting Afcon wait

20 January 2022 - 11:03
By Reuters
Comoros Islands players after their win over Ghana.
Image: @CAF_Online/Twitter Comoros Islands players after their win over Ghana.

The tiny Comoros Islands have faced a tense 48-hour wait to find out whether their shock win over Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday will prove enough to get them into the next round.

The Indian Ocean archipelago is in with a chance of grabbing one of the four places reserved in the last-16 for the best third-place finishers from the six groups, once the last three groups complete their matches.

Their sensational 3-2 win over 10-man Ghana in Garoua eliminated the four-time champions in one of the tournament’s all-time upsets, and sealed qualification from Group C for Morocco and Gabon, leaving the Comoros third on three points.

Cape Verde and Malawi have already finished third in Groups A and B with four points, putting them ahead of the Comoros in the qualification stakes.

That meant Comoros needed results to go their way on Wednesday and Thursday, when the last three groups complete their matches, to secure one of the last two third-place qualification spots.

The tournament in Cameroon has been brought alive by Tuesday’s upset and the giant-killing feat of Equatorial Guinea, another of the continent’s minnows, who ended the 35-match unbeaten run of defending champions Algeria.

"What we have done is already historic, brilliant," Said Ali Athoumane, president of the Comoros Football Federation, said.

"We were a little more liberated, more relaxed. We had nothing to lose, and now we have to hold onto hope because mathematically, it is still possible."

Amir Abdou, who has coached the team since 2014, said they had kept attacking, even after letting a 2-0 lead slip against a Ghana side who were down to 10 men from the 25th minute when their captain Dede Ayew was sent off.

"That's why I made offensive changes, we wanted to win," he said.

The island nation, which declared independence from France in 1975, has a population of just under a million.

But it has looked to its former colonial power for players to help create a substantial national side, which has now been in competition for just over a decade.