Uganda Cranes’ dream at play at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals again since Ghana 1978 was attained with a hard fought 1-0 win over Comoros at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Kampala.
With Burkina Faso winning it late at home over Botswana in an ill tempered match, it meant Uganda made the AFCON grade as one of the two second best countries alongside West Africans, Togo
Here are the highlights from the qualifiers.
Perseverance Prize: Uganda
Losing finalists in 1978, beaten by hosts Ghana 2-0 in the grand finale, Uganda had to wait for 38 years to realize qualification to the biggest stage in African football.
This is a record in itself. Standard Liege midfielder Farouk Miya scored the all important goal on the day after 36 minutes of the well attended match.
Never Give Up Accolade: Togo & Claude Le Roy
Togo hammered whipping boys Djibouti 5-0 in Lome in the same mini-league to claim one of two places reserved for the runners-up with the most points.
The Togolese shared second place in the runners-up standings with Benin and Ethiopia, but had a vastly superior goal difference.
Komlan Agbegniadan rounded off the rout with two goals in the final four minutes for the Sparrowhawks, who are coached by veteran Frenchman Claude Le Roy.
Le Roy has now been at the AFCON finals for 9 editions.
Excellence Award: Senegal
Six wins out of six. 100% record for the Teranga Lions. Trailing them is Algeria, Mali and Morocco with five wins each and a draw from the six games. Not forgetting Egypt, who managed three wins from four matches.
Revelation of the Year: Guinea Bissau
A country of a population of less than 2 million and rarely spoken about in football circles until recently progressed to the continental showpiece.
In a group with former winners’ Congo and Zambia, they prevailed. Since the beginning of 2010, Guinea Bissau has played a total of 27 matches, an average of less than four mathces in a year.
Consistency Prize: Tunisia
Qualification for 2017 means 13 qualifications in a row for the Carthage Eagles since 1994. Between the period, 1994 to 2015, Tunisia won the title at home beating Morocco in the final in 2004 and losing to South Africa in the final in 1996.
Best Attack: Algeria
Les Fennecs scored a total of 25 goals, an average of more than four goals per game and conceding five. Algeria beat Ethiopia 7-1 in Blida in one of the biggest wins of the qualifiers.
Stroke of Luck: Burkina Faso
Les Etalons left it late to confirm their ticket. And it came in the ninth minute of added time to beat Botswana 2-1 in Ouagadougou.
A Banou Diawara goal after 99 minutes in Ouagadougou gave Burkina Faso a 2-1 win over Botswana in a match that saw three red cards, two of them to the visitors.
The last-gasp victory gave the Stallions top place in Group D because of a better head-to-head over Uganda, who qualified as the best runners-up.
Cautious Kings: Cote d’Ivoire
The holders failed to live up to expectation in the qualifiers.
In a group with Sierra Leone and Sudan, Les Elephants managed just one win and three draws, surviving a late scare from Sierra Leone in the final match which ended 1-1 in Bouake.
Victory for Sierra Leone would have denied the Ivorians the opportunity to defend their title in Gabon.
It serves a huge warning to the West Africans ahead next year’s final tournament and the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup n Russia.
Qualified teams: There are 16 countries confirmed for AFCON 2017 finals.
Gabon (host), Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe
Former champions who qualified
Algeria (1990), Cameroon (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002), Cote d’Ivoire (1992, 2015), Egypt (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010), Ghana (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982), Morocco (1976), Congo (1968, 1974), Tunisia (2004)
Former champions who failed to qualify
Ethiopia (1962), Sudan (1970), Congo (1972), Nigeria (1980, 1994, 2013), South Africa (1996), Zambia (2012)
*Additional information from CAFONLINE