A disastrous start to the last qualifying competition robbed then defending champions Nigeria of a place in the 2015 tournament won by Côte d'Ivoire. But the Super Eagles patiently wore down dogged minnows Chad in northern city Kaduna for a 2-0 Group G victory. Gbolahan Salami broke the deadlock on 63 minutes and Odion Ighalo converted a penalty 10 minutes from time to complete a routine victory.
The absence of honeymooning Tokelo Rantie left South Africa without a recognised striker and they paid the price as minnows Gambia forced a 0-0 draw in Durban. It was the usual Bafana Bafana tale with lots of possession going to waste through unimaginative final-third play. New Gambia coach Raoul Savoy fielded a cautious, combative, well-drilled side for the Group M clash, including Swansea City winger Modou Barrow.
Shock 2012 African champions Zambia were held 0-0 by Guinea-Bissau in Ndola with veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene squandering a late chance to secure maximum Group E points. A clumsy hand-ball gifted the Chipolopolo a stoppage-time penalty that Mweene kicked timidly at goalkeeper Jonas Mendes.
Cape Verde Islands, seeking a third consecutive Cup of Nations appearance, showed why they are ranked 150 places above fellow island state Sao Tome e Principe with a 7-1 triumph in Praia. Jorge Semedo triggered the goal avalanche after 11 minutes and also scored the sixth before Julio Tavares completed a Group F rout 15 minutes from time.
Gelson bagged a brace as Angola trounced the Central African Republic 4-0 in Lubango, where Dolly Menga and Gilberto converted penalties in a Group B mismatch. English Premier League sharp-shooters Mame Biram Diouf and Sadio Mane were among the goals as Senegal opened their Group K campaign by overcoming Burundi 3-1 in Dakar.
Algeria, the top-ranked African team, scored twice in each half for a 4-0 win over lowly visitors Seychelles in Group J with El-Arbi Hillel Soudani claiming two goals.