In the most improbable of ways, Zimbabwe is headed to the 2016 Rio Olympics in women’s soccer, joining South Africa as qualifiers out of Africa.
Zimbabwe ousted Cameroon — which participated in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup — on away goals Sunday after finishing 2-2 on aggregate. South Africa advanced with a 1-0 victory on Sunday for an aggregate victory of the same score over Equatorial Guinea.
That Zimbabwe is headed to its first major international competition is improbable for a team which was disqualified from the Olympic qualifying competition earlier this year.
After failing to secure the necessary funds to travel for a previous qualifying fixture against Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe simply did not show up for the match. The forfeit went down as a 3-0 defeat for Zimbabwe. It was initially believed that the second leg of the tie was cancelled, but that match was eventually scheduled before being abandoned by Ivory Coast, who also did not travel. Zimbabwe advanced, and now finds itself headed to the Rio for the Olympics next year.
South Africa and Zimbabwe join Colombia, France, Germany and hosts Brazil as teams which have already qualified for the 12-nation tournament.
South Africa also participated in the 2012 London Olympics, exiting in the group stage.
Zimbabwe initially bid on the 2015 Women’s World Cup before pulling out the day before the voting process, allowing Canada to obtain the tournament unopposed.