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Mali and Benin qualify for African Nations Cup

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Striker Frederic Kanoute led Mali into the African Nations Cup finals with the opening goal in a decisive 2-0 away win over Togo in Lome on Friday.

Kanoute's first-half header set Mali on their way and a late goal by Mamadou Diallo sealed the win and top slot in Group Nine.

Both sides had needed victory to qualify for the finals and Togo, who reached the 2006 World Cup, had high hopes after the return to the side of Arsenal forward Emmanuel Adebayor.

But Sevilla striker Kanoute stole the spotlight when he headed home four minutes before halftime from Bassala Toure's cross and the Qatar-based Diallo made sure at the end.

Mali were joined in the finals by surprise package Benin, who snatched one of the three berths reserved for best runners-up by beating Sierra Leone 2-0 in Freetown in the other Group Nine game.

Oumar Tchomogo scored both goals, the first a deflection off a defender and the second an interception of a poor back-pass, to secure Benin's second-ever trip to the finals.

They had needed the victory to deny a runners-up place to Uganda, who had finished second in the Group Three standings last month.

The last Nations Cup finals berth will be decided on Saturday when Egypt host Botswana in a Group Two tie in Cairo.

Defending champions Egypt need only avoid defeat to qualify for the tournament in Ghana from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.