PRETORIA: Hosts South Africa and Cape Verde Islands qualified for the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup from Group A and sent Morocco and Angola home. Three years ago, as World Cup hosts, South Africa failed to make it beyond the group stage.

Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes burst into song during his post-match news conference while Morocco’s Rachid Taoussi burst into tears.

South Africa’s 2-2 draw with Morocco in Durban meant they topped the group with five points from three games, followed by Cape Verde in second place on the same total after a 2-1 comeback win over Angola in Port Elizabeth.

Morocco went home unbeaten after three successive draws while Angola, who faced the prospect of being eliminated even if they had beaten Cape Verde and South Africa had lost, finished bottom with one point.

The night began with the host nation top on four points followed by Cape Verde and Morocco on two and Angola with one.

That changed when Morocco took the lead against South Africa in the 10th minute through Issam El Adoua and Angola went ahead against Cape Verde after 33.

At that stage Morocco headed the group with South Africa in second place, Angola third and Cape Verde bottom. By the end of the night all four teams had changed positions several times over.

Quick turnaround

While events were unfolding in Durban, the drama was beginning in Port Elizabeth as Angola went ahead when Nando diverted a flick from Amaro into his own goal.

Despite the fact Angola were winning and South Africa were losing at that stage, if the results had stayed the same Angola would have been out and South Africa in.

Morocco, who had allowed South Africa to equalise through May Mahlangu after 71 minutes, went back in front and top of the group again when they forged 2-1 ahead with eight minutes to go.

Over in Port Elizabeth, Cape Verde equalised against Angola though Gege but that goal did not materially change much – it just meant that Cape Verde might finish on three points and Angola on two.

But what happened next changed everything as South Africa equalised against Morocco with four minutes to play.

“We knew what was going on in the other match, that’s why I told the players to attack till the end,” Antunes said.

Attack they did and Angola goalkeeper Lama made a dreadful attempt at stopping a speculative cross in the dying minutes, leaving substitute Heldon to stab the ball home.

Finalists newcomers Cape Verde, 10 islands off the coast of west Africa, have a population of just 500,000.

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