DR Congo won the CHAN title last year. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
2018 CHAN QUALIFICATION
Title-holders the Democratic Republic of Congo were shock African Nations Championship victims Saturday after being held 1-1 at home by neighbours Congo Brazzaville.
The defending champions bowed out on away goals after a goalless first leg of the final round eliminator in Brazzaville last weekend.
DR Congo boasted an outstanding record in the previous four tournaments for home-based footballers with two titles and two quarter-finals finishes.
They were expected to win at the 80,000-capacity Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa and qualify for the 2018 Nations Championship in Kenya next January and February.
Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele put the title-holders ahead on 36 minutes only for Jaures Ngombe to equalise just two minutes later.
DR Congo needed at least one more goal to survive, but Congo defended bravely to clinch only a second appearance at the 16-team tournament.
Mali, who lost the 2016 final against DR Congo in Kigali, were another shock casualty as they had a man sent off when crashing 1-0 at home to Mauritania.
Karamoko Traore scored the tie-clinching goal on 38 minutes in Bamako and the hosts were reduced to 10 men before half-time when Boubacar Samassekou was red-carded.
Mauritania advanced 3-2 on aggregate as they confirmed that their days as African football whipping boys are over.
Nigeria secured a ticket to Kenya by overcoming Benin 2-0 in Kano thanks to goals from new attack partners Rabiu Ali and Kingsley Eduwo.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, the Nigerians levelled the aggregate score when Ali struck on 37 minutes and Eduwo netted the crucial goal just after half-time.
The Ivory Coast, third behind DR Congo and Mali at the 2016 Nations Championship, scored seven minutes into stoppage time to pip Niger for a finals slot.
Sanfo Sylla netted to earn the Ivorians a 1-0 victory on an artificial Abidjan pitch and overall success on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate stalemate.
Severely depleted South Africa contained Zambia for 79 minutes in Ndola before conceding two goals in three minutes to lose the match 2-0 and the tie 4-2 on aggregate.
Justin Shonga bagged a brace to spare Zambian blushes against opponents deprived of many first choices because clubs refused to release them.
Angola fluffed a penalty in Luanda before Dany scored the only goal of the tie just past the hour to inflict a first loss in 11 matches on Madagascar.
Rwanda staged a brave comeback to defeat Uganda 2-0 in Kigali but fail 3-2 on aggregate, and Cameroon and Sudan also booked places in Kenya.