NELSPRUIT, South Africa (Reuters) - Aristide Bance was on target as Burkina Faso won 1-0 in Congo on Saturday to restore their World Cup hopes and puncture home dreams of a spot in the last round of the African preliminaries.
The lanky forward, whose peroxide hair made him one of the more recognisable figures at this year’s African Nations Cup, netted in the 38th minute in Pointe Noire to put the Burkinabe one point behind Congo with one game to go in Group E qualifying.
Congo, after reaching the halfway point with a 100 percent record, now face being overhauled in September when the last fixtures are played.
Had they drawn on Saturday they would have been the first side to book a place in the playoffs at the end of the year to decide Africa’s five representatives for Brazil 2014.
Congo will visit Niger next while Burkina Faso host Gabon.
A hat-trick of penalties from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led Gabon to a 4-1 win over Niger but his team are still three points off the pace.
The revival of the Burkinabe, surprise runners-up at the Nations Cup but docked points in the World Cup qualifiers for using an ineligible player, contrasts with the failing fortunes of 2012 continental champions Zambia who were held to a home draw.
Sudan’s Mohamed Abdallah equalised after Jacob Mulenga had given the hosts a 70th-minute lead in Ndola. The 1-1 scoreline put Zambia two points clear in Group D but they expect to be overhauled on Sunday when Ghana take on minnows Lesotho.
Zambia’s hopes are now likely to hinge on their match in Ghana in September.
Morocco beat Gambia 2-0 to move two points behind leaders Ivory Coast in Group C although the latter will seal their place in the next round if they win in Tanzania on Sunday.
Two goals in the last seven minutes saw Uganda come from behind to beat 2006 World Cup qualifiers Angola 2-1 in Kampala and take a two-point lead in Group J. But favourites Senegal will go top again with a victory in Liberia on Sunday.
Defender Tony Mawejje, who plays his club football in Iceland, scored the last-minute winner.
Ten African qualifying games will be played on Sunday when the first teams to clinch a spot in the last round are expected to emerge.
Additional reporting by Nick Said; editing by Tony Jimenez