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Zimbabwe Qualifies for African Nations Cup - 2003-07-07

Zimbabwe's national football team, The Warriors, has for the first time since independence 23 years ago, qualified for the African Nations Cup. But Zimbabweans had to wait for more than 24 nerve-wracking hours before they found out their team had qualified for the premier football event on the African continent.

To qualify automatically, the Warriors needed to beat Eritrea by at least three goals more than Mali beat Seychelles in another qualification match. While the Warriors did win 2-0, they did not win by a big enough margin to go straight through. Mali beat the Seychelles by a similar score.

This meant that although the Warriors had won a similar number of games as the Malian Eagles, Mali's team went straight through as it had scored more goals.

Zimbabwe's qualification now depended on the result of the match between Gabon and Sierra Leone on Sunday. If Sierra Leone won, they would go through as the best placed runner up of the two groups. But the Gabonese, who were playing for national pride only, as they had no chance of qualifying, did Zimbabwe a favor by beating the West Africans 2-0.

Zimbabwe's long wait to participate in the African Nations Cup, which takes place next year in Tunisia, was finally over. As soon as the result was known, people started celebrating.

On Monday, Zimbabweans were still celebrating. Whether the Warriors go on to win the African Nations Cup is beside the point, just qualifying is victory enough.