Egypt’s Salah Scores Four Goals, but Nigeria Faces Unexpected Setback.

CAPE TOWN: Mohamed Salah scored four times and took his goal tally for Egypt past 50 as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign with an expected victory over tiny Djibouti while Nigeria were held to a shock home draw by Lesotho on Thursday.

Salah’s performance ensured a 6-0 win for Egypt in their opening Group A match in Cairo with the striker grabbing the first four goals and increasing his overall tally for Egypt to 53 in 93 appearances as they look for a place at the 2026 finals, having missed out on the Qatar World Cup last year.

Nigeria, without injured Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, were held to a 1-1 draw at a rainy Uyo by the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, who are 113 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

Defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi put Lesotho into a shock lead after 56 minutes of the Group C encounter and they kept their advantage for 11 minutes before London-born centre back Semi Ajayi headed home the equaliser from Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner.

But despite pressure on the visitors’ goal for the remainder of the game, Nigeria could not fashion a winner and the result will put heavy pressure on coach Jose Peserio, just two months out from their participation at the Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Mozambique claimed the first away victory of the African qualifying campaign, which got underway this week, beating Botswana 3-2 in Group G with Jonathan Muiomo, who plays in the fourth tier of German club football, scoring the winner in only his second appearance.


Algeria are the favourites in that group but their 3-1 home win over Somalia in Algiers was unconvincing with Riyad Mahrez and Amine Gouiri among their star players taken off at halftime as coach Djamel Belmadi looked to freshen up a struggling side.

Gabon fought from a goal down to beat Kenya 2-1 with Denis Bouanga, this year’s top scorer in Major League Soccer, equalising on the hour mark and Guelor Kanga grabbing a 88th-minute winner in Franceville.

Burundi also won in Group F, edging the Gambia 3-2 in their match played in Tanzania because of Burundi’s lack of a suitable stadium.

Sudan were forced to host their Group B clash against Togo in Benghazi, Libya because of the civil war in their country and although they went ahead through an early penalty saw Togo equalise through Belgian-based Kevin Denkey for a 1-1 draw.

The first two rounds of African qualifiers are played from Wednesday to next Tuesday, and will resume next June.

There are nine groups where the winner qualifies for the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the U.S but the four best runners-up get a further chance to qualify through a two-tier playoff system. – Reuters

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