Football: Holders Nigeria fail to qualify for African Cup of Nations

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Holders Nigeria were bundled out of the African Nations Cup qualifiers on Wednesday as the final six places for the 2015 finals were decided. Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Mali all made certain of their spots and join the 10 countries who had already booked their places at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea.

Nigeria had to beat Group A winners South Africa in their last qualifier at their new stadium in Uyo to stand a chance of defending their title at the Jan 17-Feb 8 continental championship. They were 2-0 down shortly after half-time, however, after quick goals either side of the interval from striker Tokelo Rantie.

Nigeria pulled one back from Sone Aluko with 22 minutes remaining and the Hull City striker then equalised deep into stoppage time against opponents, who had been reduced to 10 men for the last 19 minutes.

Congo finished second behind South Africa after a 1-0 win in Sudan, where Francis Ndanga's second-half free kick ensured that veteran coach Claude Le Roy will go to a record-extending eighth tournament. Guinea beat Uganda 2-0 in Casablanca to finish second in Group E behind Ghana, who topped the standings after a 3-1 home win over Togo.

Guinea had to move their match to a neutral venue because of a ban on playing at home where the deadly Ebola virus has claimed more than 1,000 lives. The game was held in Morocco, who were stripped of hosting the tournament last week after asking for a postponement amid fears that fans travelling to the finals could spread the virus to their country.

Mali ended Algeria's 100 percent record in Group B to book their place with Seydou Keita scoring a first-half penalty and Mustapha Yatabare adding a second after the break in a 2-0 win in Bamako. Ivory Coast needed only to draw with already-qualified Cameroon and squeezed through in a goalless clash against a side reduced to 10 men for the last half-hour after captain Stephane Mbia was sent off.

The top two teams in each of the seven groups qualified plus the best third-placed finisher, which was the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two goals from Yannick Bolasie in a 3-1 home win over Sierra Leone helped them to nine points from their six matches, but they had to wait several hours for their place to be confirmed.

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