Lowly Rwanda, Sudan, Comoros steal World Cup show in Africa

AFP , Wednesday 12 Jun 2024

Rwanda, Sudan and Comoros, all fifth seeds in six-nation 2026 World Cup qualifying groups, were shock table toppers in Africa on Tuesday after matchday four.

Substitute Thapelo Morena scored twice for South Africa in a 2026 World Cup qualifying victory over Zimbabwe. Phill Magakoe / AFP


Former qualifiers Egypt, Cameroon, shock 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, African champions Ivory Coast, Algeria and Tunisia lead the other mini-leagues.

Qualifying from Africa is a 10-round marathon spread over three years with the nine group winners booking places at the 48-team finals in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

None of the three shock frontrunners are ranked among the top 30 countries in Africa, making their achievements remarkable.

However, they will have to wait nine months before they can seek more points as matchday five is scheduled only for March 2025.

Jojea Kwizera scored in the final minute of the first half to earn Rwanda a 1-0 win over Lesotho, who played in South African city Durban because they lack a FIFA-approved stadium.

Winning under German coach Torsten Spittler took Rwanda to first place in Group C with seven points, ahead of South Africa and Benin on goal difference.

Lesotho have five points, winless top seeds Nigeria three and Zimbabwe two in a group 2024 Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Nigeria and third-placed South Africa were expected to dominate.

Substitute Thapelo Morena scored twice in the second half as South Africa defeated neighbours Zimbabwe 3-1 in freezing central city Bloemfontein.

The match began sensationally with both teams scoring within 99 seconds. Iqraam Rayners put South Africa ahead and Tawanda Chirewa equalised.

"Thapelo is very quick and I told him to exploit space behind the Zimbabwe defence, which he did brilliantly," said South Africa coach Hugo Broos.

"I wanted a minimum of four points from the two matchdays this month and that is what we got, so we are on track," added the Belgian, referring to a draw in Nigeria and the win over Zimbabwe.

Infantino sees Sudan win


Sudan, who cannot play at home because of armed conflict in the east African state, triumphed 3-0 in South Sudan as the neighbours met for the first time.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in Juba for the opening of the renovated national stadium and saw Walieldin Khedr, in the first half, Yasser Muzammil and Mohamed Yagoub score.

Sudan have 10 points in Group B, Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal eight and the Democratic Republic of Congo seven in what is shaping up as a three-team race for top spot.

Comoros, representing an archipelago off the southeastern coast of Africa, replaced Ghana as Group I leaders on goal difference after a 2-0 win over Chad 2-0 in Moroccan city Oujda.

Both goals came in the second half with Myziane Maolida claiming his third of the qualifying campaign and El Fardou Nabouhane his second.

Ayoub el Kaabi, who scored the only goal when Olympiacos beat Fiorentina in the 2024 Europa Conference League final, claimed a hat-trick as Morocco hammered Congo Brazzaville 6-0 in Agadir.

Morocco lead Group E -- reduced to five teams by the pre-competition withdrawal of Eritrea - with nine points and second-placed Tanzania have six following a surprise 1-0 win in Zambia,

Africa Cup of Nations title-holders Ivory Coast surrendered their perfect Group F record by drawing 0-0 with Kenya in Malawi capital Lilongwe, but stayed in first place.

Cameroon retained top spot in Group D by drawing 1-1 with Angola in Luanda, where Brentford forward Bryan Mbeumo put the visitors ahead in the first half.

Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui conceded an own goal soon after half-time to restore equality, leaving fourth-placed Angola two points adrift of Cameroon.

Of all the winners on Tuesday, Mauritius were among the happiest as they ended a 21-year wait for a qualifying win by defeating fellow minnows Eswatini 2-1 in Saint-Pierre.

The Indian Ocean islanders last celebrated a victory in November 2003 when they won 3-1 at home to Uganda. Since then, Mauritius have drawn three matches and lost 10.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)



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