A key Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Gambia and Congo Brazzaville will go ahead in Marrakech on Sunday, despite a nearby earthquake claiming more than 1,300 lives, officials said.
The 6.8 magnitude quake struck late on Friday 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of the Moroccan city that Gambia are using as a home venue because they lack an international stadium.
A Moroccan interior ministry statement said on Saturday that 1,305 people had been confirmed dead and 1,832 injured, of whom 1,220 were in a critical condition.
Another final-round qualifier, between qualified Morocco and eliminated Liberia on Saturday in Agadir, a coastal city 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of Marrakech, was postponed.
Congolese and Gambian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the delegations slept outside their hotels in Marrakech.
“We expected the game to be postponed given the circumstances. Our hotel has been partly damaged,” said the Gambian.
The Congolese said: “It is hard to concentrate on a football match, crucial thought it is, after so many people died not far from here.”
Gambia need one point to qualify for the January 13-February 11 Cup of Nations finals as Group G runners-up behind Mali while Congo must win to finish runners-up.
Gambia will be the third west African country after Niger and Burkina Faso to play at the 45,000-seat Grand stade de Marrakech within four days because of inadequate venues at home.
The deadly quake overshadowed seven qualifiers on Saturday with Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania swelling the number of Ivory Coast-bound teams to 21.
– Hotly contested –
Clesio Bauque scored five minutes into added time to earn Mozambique a 3-2 victory over Benin in a tense Maputo showdown that settled who accompanied Senegal from Group L.
Benin needed maximum points to overtake Mozambique and former Premier League forward Steve Mounie put the visitors ahead by converting a 20th-minute penalty.
Mozambique responded with goals from Witiness Quembe and Portugal-born debutant Ricardo Guimares to lead at half-time.
Jodel Dossou levelled five minutes into the second half and the outcome of the match and the final standings hung in the balance until Bauque raced through to fire past Saturnin Allagbe.
Group I was the most hotly contested of the 12 sections as all four countries entered the final matchday with a chance of qualifying.
But home victories for DR Congo and Mauritania kept them in first and second places ahead of Gabon and Sudan.
Theo Bongonda scored after eight minutes and substitute Fiston Mayele struck with three minutes of regular time remaining to give DR Congo a 2-0 win over Sudan in Kinshasa.
DR Congo overcame a disastrous start to their campaign — losing against Gabon and Sudan — to top the table with four consecutive victories under French coach Sebastien Desabre.
First-half goals from Hemeya Tanjy and Aboubakar Kamara set up Mauritania for a 2-1 win in Nouakchott over Gabon, who had goalkeeper Jean-Noel Amonome sent off after just five minutes.