The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania and Mozambique qualified for the next Africa Cup of Nations finals with wins on Saturday, but the games were overshadowed by the earthquake in Morocco that killed more than 1,000 people.
The quake led to the postponement of Morocco’s Group K clash with Liberia but not Sunday’s decisive Group G game between Gambia and Congo in Marrakech, where buildings were damaged by the quake, gauged by the U.S. Geological Survey at a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km southwest of the city.
The Gambia and Congo teams had to evacuate their hotel rooms when the quake hit on Friday and spent the night sleeping next to their respective hotel swimming pools.
The two coaches told Reuters the players were traumatised and in no mood to play the game in which Gambia need a draw but Congo must win to earn a place at January’s finals in the Ivory Coast.
However, the teams have been told to go ahead by the Confederation of African Football.
DR Congo have 12 points and Mauritania 10, ending the hopes of Gabon, who had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in their squad after reversing his international retirement.
Gabon were always on the back foot, forced to play most of the match with 10 men after goalkeeper Jean Noel Amonome was sent off for elbowing an opponent in the fifth minute.
Former Belgium junior international Theo Bongonda scored after eight minutes for the Congolese opener in Kinshasa, followed by a late second from Fiston Mayele.
Mozambique booked their place earlier on Saturday with a last-gasp 3-2 home win over Benin in Maputo.
Mozambique are in the finals for the first time since 2010 despite making heavy weather of a game they only needed to draw to go through as runners-up in Group L behind holders Senegal.
But after going a goal down, they came back to secure victory in stoppage time through substitute Clesio Bauque.
There are now only three places still to be filled in the finals between Gambia and Congo on Sunday and two places from Group C, which concludes on Tuesday, with two teams out of Burundi, Cameroon and Namibia to go through.
On top of hosts Ivory Coast and Saturday’s successful trio, the other finalists are Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, the Cape Verde Islands, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia.