Mali ensured their place at an eighth consecutive Nations Cup finals with narrow hard-fought 2-1 win over hosts Namibia.
All three goals of Tuesday’s Group A encounter came in the opening 40 minutes of the game as Mali had a penalty saved in the second-half and Namibia hitting the post.
Red Bull Salzburg’s Sekou Koita scored after just 12 minutes for Mali as he drove forward to the edge of the area before firing a powerful shot past keeper Virgil Vries in to the top corner.
Vries was at fault for the second goal as Moussa Doumbia cut into the area and fired in a shot from a tight angle that beat the keeper at his near post.
Two minutes later Namibia pulled a goal back as Elmo Kambindu rose at the far post to head home a free-kick from Absalom Limbondi.
Both teams battled to score again after the break and Mali should have added a third from the penalty spot but Vries went the right way and saved El Bilal Toure’s effort. The penalty had been awarded for a clumsy challenge on Doumbia by subsitute Riaan Hanamub.
The Namibian almost made amends late on with a fierce shot that had beaten the Mali keeper but not the post.
Mali’s win takes them to 10 points, two ahead of second-placed Guinea with Namibia on three and still with a mathematical chance of grabbing second place.
However Chad, despite earning their first point of the campaign in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Guinea, cannot now qualify for the finals.