JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — Egypt filled the last qualifying place for the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana after a laboured 1-0 victory over Botswana in Cairo Saturday.
Substitute Mohamed Fadl scored the winner 11 minutes after coming on in the second half as coach Hassan Shehata tried to inject fire into a wasteful strike force.
The Pharaohs are the defending champions after pipping Ivory Coast on penalties in Cairo last year, and topped Group 2 in the 2008 eliminators with 12 points from three home victories and three away draws.
Mauritania, Burundi and Botswana collected seven points each in a pool that came to a predictable conclusion with Egypt heavily favoured from the opening matches last year to finish first.
Less than 10,000 Egyptian supporters turned up at the Cairo Stadium because the five-time Nations Cup winners were considered certain qualifiers as they needed only a draw to clinch a place among the 16 finalists.
Those who stayed away from the 80,000-seat venue were spared the frustration of watching Egypt squander numerous chances to break the deadlock against rivals content to defend.
Shehata, a Nations Cup winner as a player in 1986 and as a coach 20 years later, finally lost patience midway through the second half and pulled off misfiring strikers Emad Moteab and Amr Zaki.
And amid all the stars like midfielder Mohamed Aboutraika from African club champions Al-Ahly, it was Fadl of less fashionable outfit Ismailia who showed how it should be done with a header past Modiri Marumo after 76 minutes.
Egypt were content to protect their advantage as time ticked away knowing Botswana had to score twice to deprive them of a 21st appearance at the biennial showcase of African football.
Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Zambia and hosts Ghana have also qualified for a tournament to be staged from January 20 to February 10.
Burundi had to win a match played in Mauritania at the same time to have any chance of snatching first place, but were lucky to lose only 2-1 with visiting goalkeeper Vladimir Niyonkuru repeatedly coming to the rescue in Nouakchott.
Pascal Corville gave the Mauritanians a first-half lead that was extended by Ahmed Teguedi just after half-time and Abdallah Imantona grabbed a late goal for the central Africans, who arrived less than 24 hours before the kick-off.
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