Mohamed Salah showcased a stellar performance, scoring four goals as Egypt opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a anticipated 6-0 victory over Djibouti.
Salah’s remarkable feat propelled his overall goal tally for Egypt to 53 in 93 appearances as they aim for a spot in the 2026 finals after missing out on the Qatar World Cup last year.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, missing the injured Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, faced an unexpected setback with a 1-1 draw against Lesotho in a rainy encounter in Uyo.
Lesotho, positioned 113 places below Nigeria in the FIFA rankings, took a surprising lead with defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi’s goal, only to be equalized by Semi Ajayi from Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner.
In other matches, Mozambique secured the first away victory of the African qualifying campaign, beating Botswana 3-2 in Group G. Algeria, the favourites in the group, had an unconvincing 3-1 home win over Somalia, prompting coach Djamel Belmadi to make halftime substitutions.
Gabon rallied from a goal down to defeat Kenya 2-1, with Denis Bouanga equalising on the hour mark and Guelor Kanga securing an 88th-minute winner in Franceville.
Burundi also clinched a victory in Group F, edging the Gambia 3-2 in a match played in Tanzania due to Burundi’s lack of a suitable stadium.
Sudan hosted their Group B clash against Togo in Benghazi, Libya, due to the civil war in their country.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Sudan taking an early lead through a penalty, equalized by Kevin Denkey of Togo.
The Group D clash between the Cape Verde Islands and Angola concluded in a goalless draw, characterised by missed chances.
The first two rounds of African qualifiers span from Wednesday to the following Tuesday, with the next set of matches resuming in June.
In the qualifying format, nine groups determine direct qualifiers for the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., while the four best runners-up have an additional chance through a two-tier playoff system.