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Benin and Rwanda Two Surprise Qualifiers For Nations Cup Soccer Finals - 2003-07-07

Benin and Rwanda, two of the traditional minnows in the shark-infested waters of African football, have taken a big bite out of the competition, with each team qualifying for the first time for the Nations Cup finals.

Both "The Squirrels" of Benin and "The Wasps" of Rwanda won at home to book their inaugural tickets to the biennial African soccer showpiece, which kicks off in Tunisia in January. Benin beat Zambia, 3-0, in Cotonou, to finish on top of Group three with 13 points. Meanwhile, Rwanda shocked four-time Nations Cup champion Ghana, 1-0, in Kigali, to clinch Group 13.

Benin and Rwanda join Zimbabwe as the three debutants at African football's premier event. There were celebrations in all three countries, with soccer fans dancing, singing and tooting car horns to acknowledge their respective teams' historic achievements.

Here are the 16 teams that qualified for the 2004 African Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia: Tunisia (host); Cameroon (titleholder); Nigeria; Guinea; Burkina Faso; Senegal; Algeria; Kenya; South Africa; Benin; Rwanda; Morocco; Zimbabwe; Egypt; Mali; and the Democratic Republic of Congo.