Ghana captain Gladwin Awako completed the scoring in a 3-0 rout of Benin when 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying kicked off this weekend.
Before Awako struck nine minutes from time in Cape Coast on Sunday, Daniel Barnieh and Mohammed Alhassan, two of his teammates at Accra club Hearts of Oak, scored either side of half-time.
Barnieh converted a 26th-minute penalty awarded for handball and Alhassan doubled the lead on 48 minutes with a shot through a crowd of players after Benin failed to clear a corner.
Awako gave Ghana a convincing advantage ahead of the first round second leg on July 30 when he curled a shot into the roof the net from just inside the box.
Ghana have experienced mixed fortunes in the CHAN — a biennial competition restricted to home-based stars — finishing runners-up in 2009 and 2014 but failing to qualify for the last three editions.
In the likely event that they eliminate Benin, Ghana will face arch rivals Nigeria for a place at the 18-nation finals in Algeria.
Senegal completed a memorable four days for the country ranked No. 1 in Africa when they beat Liberia 3-0 in Paynesville with Bouly Sambou, Raymond Ndour and Jean-Louis Diouf scoring before half-time.
On Thursday in Morocco, 2022 African Player of the Year Sadio Mane led the way as Senegal topped five of the seven men’s categories at the annual awards ceremony.
South Africa overcame bungled travel arrangements to defeat the Comoros 1-0 in Moroni through a second-half goal from Khulekani Shezi.
The kick-off was delayed 90 minutes due to the late arrival of the visitors, who dashed from the airport to the stadium and played after a brief warm-up.
South Africa have a dismal record in CHAN qualifying, reaching the finals only once in five attempts. A second tournament appearance in 2014 was due to the country being the hosts.
Recently crowned southern Africa champions Zambia are set to reach the second round after forcing a 0-0 draw with Mozambique in Maputo.
Eswatini have not won a qualifier since debuting 14 years ago, and the unwanted record stretched to 17 matches after a 0-0 draw against Botswana in Francistown.
Apart from automatic qualifiers Algeria, title-holders Morocco and Libya have secured places with the other 15 finalists to be known by September 4.
FIFA gives full international status to CHAN matches and they count toward world rankings.