Botswana and eSwatini achieved overall victory in an African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier for the first time this weekend after 11 years of failures.
The Southern African teams advanced to the second elimination phase for the 2020 finals in contrasting fashion with Botswana winning comfortably and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) scraping through.
Botswana followed up a 2-0 home victory over the Seychelles last month by winning the return match 3-1 in Victoria for a 5-1 aggregate triumph.
eSwatini drew 1-1 away to Malawi in Blantyre and progressed on the away goal rule after the first leg ended goalless.
In the next round of a competition restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth, Botswana will face Zambia during July and August while eSwatini meet Angola.
eSwatini have still to win a qualifying match in 12 attempts since competing in the first edition of the Nations Championship 11 years ago.
The stalemate in Malawi was their fourth draw with the other eight matches lost, including three at home.
Coached by Serb Kosta Papic, eSwatini went ahead at Kamuzu Stadium in the Malawian commercial capital after 52 minutes through Sandile Gamedze and Micium Mhone equalised soon after.
The remainder of the match was dominated by Malawi, who introduced Zicco Mkanda for Gastin Simkonda without managing to score again.
It was an unexpected victory for Papic, who previously coached South African club giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and also worked in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania.
He had been surprisingly upbeat ahead of the return match, saying “there is no reason why eSwatini cannot qualify for the African Nations Championship tournament”.
To do so they will have to eliminate Angola, then Botswana or Zambia, who finished third behind champions the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana in the 2009 finals.
In Victoria, the Seychelles fell behind after 56 minutes at Stade Linite against Botswana, leaving them with an unrealistic target of scoring at least four goals to win the tie.
Perry Monnaie levelled five minutes later for the tiny Indian Ocean nation only for Joel Mogorosi to put the visitors ahead again midway through the second half.
Thero Setsile scored his second goal of the second leg four minutes from time to inflict a fourth home defeat on the Seychellois in Nations Championship qualifiers.
Botswana will hope for a change of luck when they meet Zambia having suffered overall defeats by their northern neighbours in 2009 and 2014 qualifiers.
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