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Cameroon in danger of missing another African Cup

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Cameroon slipped to a surprise loss at Cape Verde, Central African Republic moved closer to its first major tournament and defending champion Zambia won narrowly at the start of the final round of qualifying for the African Cup on Saturday.

Ivory Coast came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to beat Senegal 4-2 in the first leg of their tie. Ghana beat Malawi 2-0.

Cameroon lost 2-0 and is in danger of missing out on its second straight African Cup ahead of decisive second-leg matches in October. Just seven months after lifting the trophy in Gabon, Zambia entered qualifying for next year's tournament in South Africa with a 1-0 home win over Uganda through a first-half goal by captain Christopher Katongo.

After eliminating seven-time winner Egypt in the last round, Central African Republic is one game away from a long-awaited place at the Cup of Nations after a 1-0 victory in its home leg against Burkina Faso. Nigeria was held to 2-2 in Liberia.

Elsewhere, Mali beat Botswana 3-0, strikers Daniel Cousin and Emmanuel Adebayor scored as Gabon and Togo drew 1-1, Sierra Leone and Tunisia drew 2-2 and Sudan beat Ethiopia 5-3 as the last round of qualifiers began with 10 first-leg matches. The remaining five ties kick off on Sunday as 30 teams battle over two legs for a place at the 16-team African Cup alongside host South Africa.

Without captain and leading striker Samuel Eto'o, who has refused to return to international duty after a lengthy ban, Cameroon lost against a team that was once ranked well below the four-time African champion. Now, only four places separate the slumping 61st-ranked Cameroon and Cape Verde in the FIFA rankings and the Indomitable Lions have a two-goal deficit to overturn back at home if they are to avoid joining Egypt as another high-profile absentee at the continental championship.

Ivory Coast, the top-ranked African team and losing finalist in Gabon, relied on goals by star names Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Didier Drogba and Max Gradel to battle past Senegal in Abidjan, which had led through Dame N'Doye and then Papiss Cisse.

In Europe, Scotland and Serbia opened their bids to qualify for the 2014 World Cup with a 0-0 draw at Hampden Park on Saturday.

The Scots created enough scoring chances but stubborn defending by Serbia and a lack of finishing kept the Group A game deadlocked.

Robert Snodgrass was denied from close range by a save from Vladimir Stojkovic at the near post, while Steven Naismith sent a header wide at the back post during the first half.

Serbia looked sharper after the restart, with Aleksandar Ignjovski unleashing a powerful shot that fizzed over the crossbar before Aleksandar Kolarov drove across the face of goal and just past the post.

But Scotland should have scored when Gary Caldwell released Naismith into the box, only for his shot to be dragged wide.

Denmark and the Czech Republic drew 0-0 in their opening qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup on Saturday.

Denmark dominated the first half but the Czechs came back in the second with an early attempt by Matej Vydra.

The home team kept pressing and regained control, and had several chances. Their best came from Nicolai Jorgensen and Leon Andreasen but Petr Cech was able to keep his goal clear.

The Danes faced a compact and defensive Czech team. Cech jumped to make a save in the last minute when a lone Leon Andreasen took a clear shot.

Captain and defender Daniel Agger added, “That's football. We didn't do everything right but we had lots of chances.”

Denmark played without the suspended Nicklas Bendtner because of UEFA's one-match ban while the Czechs were without injured captain Tomas Rosicky, and his usual replacement, Daniel Kolar, and first-choice attacking midfielder Vaclav Pilar also were injured.

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Denmark national team player Thomas Kristensen, left, fights for the ball with Czech player Jaroslav Plasil during a World Cup 2014 qualifying match at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, Sept. 8. (AFP)

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