A wonder goal from Baraka Majogoro was not enough to keep Tanzania in the African Nations Championship as Guinea and Zambia secured the last two quarter-finals places in Cameroon Wednesday.
Tanzania were eight minutes away from topping Group D when Victor Kantabadouno levelled for Guinea in a thrilling 2-2 draw in Douala.
It was a heartbreaking result for the Tanzanians, who improved in every group match under Burundi-born coach Etienne Ndayiragije, and especially defensive midfielder Majogoro.
Majogoro struck on 23 minutes with a goal sure to be a contender for the best of the tournament.
When a Guinean partially cleared the ball, Majogoro unleashed a volley that flew into the corner of the net with goalkeeper Moussa Camara a helpless onlooker.
It was the latest brilliant goal at the Nations Championship, with others coming from Cameroonian Salomon Banga, Amadeu Masasi from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambian Emmanuel Chabula.
Majogoro cancelled an early Yakhouba Barry goal for Guinea from the penalty spot and Edward Manyama nodded Tanzania in front on 69 minutes before Kantabadouno also scored with his head.
Meanwhile, in nearby Limbe, Zambia maintained a record of never losing a group game in four Nations Championship tournament appearances by drawing 0-0 with Namibia.
Guinea came first on goal difference after finishing level on five points with Zambia, Tanzania accumulated four and Namibia one.
While Namibia were happy to avoid the fate of Zimbabwe and not collect a single point, they were the only team among the 16 in Cameroon not to score in three group matches.
After 14 victories, 10 draws and 46 goals in 24 group matches, the stage is set for the quarter-finals in a competition reserved for home-based players.
On Saturday, hosts Cameroon face the Democratic Republic of Congo, the only country to win the Nations Championship twice, in Douala and Mali take on Congo Brazzaville in Yaounde.
The following day, title-holders Morocco hope to further a bid to become the first back-to-back champions when they meet Zambia in Douala, and Guinea square up against Rwanda in Limbe.
Cameroon against DR Congo, who won Group B despite 12 players and coach Florent Ibenge testing positive for coronavirus during the group phase, stands out as the match of the weekend.
Crowds were restricted to 25 percent of stadium capacity during group matches and the organisers hope a higher percentage can watch the knockout phase, which culminates with the February 7 final.