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Amuneke guides Tanzania to first AFCON in 40 years

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There were scenes of wild celebration across major cities in Tanzania yesterday after the country’s national team, the Taifa Stars defeated the Uganda Cranes 3-0 to achieve a historic qualification for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations to hold in Egypt.

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Yesterday’s qualification was Tanzania’s first since 1980 when Nigeria hosted the biennial continental showpiece.

It was even more significant for Nigerian-born coach Emmanuel Amuneke, a 1994 AFCON winner who guided the Tanzanians to this historic feat as he became the second Nigerian tactician, after late Stephen Keshi, to qualify a foreign country for the Nations Cup.

Keshi did it with Togo in 2006 and also with Mali in 2010. Even though he played just three matches in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and 2000, Amuneke has already cast his name in gold in the African premier football tournament.

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His only match in 1994 earned Nigeria the winning goals as well as making him the African Footballer of the Year.

The Taifa Stars triumphed at the National Stadium to finish second in Group L behind the Cranes (who had already qualified) to deny Lesotho (who drew 0-0 away to Cape Verde in a concurrent game) a first ever place at the finals.

Tanzania looked the more proactive side from the early stages and they claimed the lead on 21 minutes, with Simon Msuva’s shot from the right of the penalty area taking a deflection off a defender which put it beyond the reach of Uganda goalkeeper Denis Onyango.

It was the first goal the Cranes had conceded in the qualification phase.

The hosts continued to look the better team through the remainder of the first half, but were unable to add to their advantage. However, early in the second stanza, they were awarded a debatable penalty for hand-ball and Erasto Nyomi stroked home from the spot to make it 2-0 in the 51st minute.

Just seven minutes later it was 3-0 in favour of the Taifa Stars, as Aggrey Morris got on the end of John Bocco’s cross from the right by-line and glanced home a perfectly-placed header to end the game as a contest.

Tanzania ended the group with eight points, second behind the 13-point haul of Uganda. Lesotho and Cape Verde completed the standings with six and five points respectively.

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