CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -Debutant Afriyie Acquah's early goal for Ghana ensured the Black Stars became the first team to qualify for the 2013 African Cup of Nations as they beat Malawi 1-0 in Lilongwe on Saturday.
Ghana went into the match with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, and Acquah's strike after just two minutes ensured the four-time champions will be present in South Africa early next year.
Mali delivered a firm statement of their abilities as they thrashed Botswana 4-1 in Gaborone, meaning the Eagles qualify on an aggregate score of 7-1, but defending champion Zambia required a penalty shootout to progress at the expense of Uganda by a score of 9-8.
Zambia held a 1-0 advantage going into the second-leg clash in Kampala, but Geoffrey Massa's first-half strike drew the hosts level in the tie, which went to a penalty shootout after 90 minutes.
Chipolopolo won the 2012 African championships in a dramatic shootout against Ivory Coast, and they held their nerve again to beat Uganda and book their place in next year's finals, to be held in South Africa.
Mali led 1-0 at the break, but underlined their dominance with three second-half strikes before Botswana claimed a late consolation goal.
Two-time champion Nigeria, which failed to qualify for the 2012 finals, ensured that the team will return in 2013 after thumping a hapless Liberia 6-1 in Calabar.
A 2-2 draw in the first leg had left the tie finely balanced, but first-half goals from Efe Ambrose and Ahmed Musa put Nigeria in charge before the hosts ran riot in the second half.
Chelsea's Victor Moses grabbed a second-half brace, while John Obi Mikel and Ike Uche also scored for the Super Eagles.
Captain Gebro Duncan was sent off for Liberia, and Patrick Wleh's late goal was the only bright spot for the visitors.