from AHMED MOOLA in Cairo, Egypt
CAIRO, (CAJ News) – AFTER uninspiring opening campaigns in the World Cup 2026 qualifiers, the continent’s powerhouses must rediscover form or else miss out on the showpiece.
Nigeria has endured the most below-par campaign thus far, collecting two points from a possible six.
The West Africans have only managed one-all draws at home to Lesotho and away to Zimbabwe (in Rwanda).
That the Super Eagles had to come back from behind in both Group C matches underlines the trouble in their nest, exacerbated by the absence of main man, Victor James Osimhen, through injury
Traditionally, countries in the Southern African bloc are the whipping boys of this fading continental powerhouse.
Add to that the fact that Lesotho’s buoyant Crocodiles gained their first point ever against the West African outfit and Zimbabwe has only returned to international football recently after an 18-month ban by the Federation International Football Association (FIFA).
Also, Zimbabwe’s Warriors cannot play their home games on home soil. According to the Confederation of African Football (CAF), stadia in Zimbabwe do not meet standards to host international matches.
Zimbabwe have secured two draws and are joint-second with Nigeria, below South Africa (3 points), who opened their campaign with an unconvincing 2-1 win at home to Benin on Saturday.
For Cameroon, record continental participants (eight tournaments) at the World Cup, a 3-0 win over lightweights Mauritius in their Group D opener was not a true reflection of the contest.
The Indomitable Lions suffered frustration at home and only got a breakthrough in the 87th minute and injury time against The Dodos.
Ghana also huffed and puffed at home, the Black Stars scoring six minutes into injury time at home to Madagascar in Group I to narrowly win 1-0
Other big guns did not have so much trouble, strutting to victories against lightweight opponents in their opening matches.
Ivory Coast demolished visiting Seychelles 9-0 in Group F.
By trampling on The Pirates, the Ivorian Elephants attained a record winning margin for a World Cup qualifier in Africa.
In Group B, Senegal cruised to a 4-0 home win over Sudan.
It was a memorable occasion at the Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade for Teranga Lions talisman, Sadio Mane, as his double helped dim the visiting Bright Stars on his 100th cap.
The 31-year-old incumbent African Footballer of the Year has scored 40 goals for the reigning African champions.
Algeria and Egypt have each won two of their opening matches and top Group G and A respectively.
Gabon has also made a perfect start in two matches and leads Group F.
Morocco, the Qatar 2022 semifinalists and Africa’s top-ranked side, open their campaign on Tuesday away to joint Group E leaders, Tanzania. The match with the Taifa Stars is one of 15 fixtures on the day.
The nine group winners qualify for the 2026 tournament in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
A winner of the mini tournament featuring the four best runners-up will qualify for another mini tournament with sides from other continents for two berths in the tourney in North America.
– CAJ News