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Mixed results for African giants in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

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The latest round of matches for qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup delivered mixed results for Africa’s footballing giants.

The biggest shock saw Algeria suffer a 2-1 defeat at home to Guinea. Second half goals from Morlaye Sylla and Aguibou Camara, either side of an own goal by Yasser Balde, ended Algeria’s perfect start to qualifying in Group G.

Mali also suffered a shock home defeat as Ghana came from a goal down to win 2-1 in Bamako, with Jordan Ayew netting a stoppage-time winner.

Africa Cup of Nations runners-up Nigeria remain without a win in their three matches after they were held to a 1-1 draw by rivals South Africa in Group C. Meanwhile, an equaliser by Fiston Mayele five minutes from time saw Democratic Republic of Congo hold Senegal to a 1-1 draw away from home.

Away from the continent’s heavyweights, the qualifiers served more stunning results as the so-called smaller nations stamped their mark against their more-fancied opponents. Sudan defeated Mauritania 2-0, South Sudan held Togo to a 1-1 draw and Madagascar edged Comoros 2-1.

However, one result that caught the eye was Lesotho’s 2-0 win against Zimbabwe in Johannesburg which sent the tiny South African nation top of Group C, which includes Nigeria and South Africa.

Despite these shock results, some big names safely navigated their matches to remain in contention for direct qualification. African champions Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia recorded 1-0 wins against Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, while Egypt and Morocco both secured narrow 2-1 wins against Burkina Faso and Zambia, respectively.

The third round of qualifiers, which kicked off on Wednesday, ends on Saturday with Cameroon hosting Cape Verde before Gambia takes on Seychelles.

The continent’s nine group winners will qualify automatically for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The four best runners-up will then compete for one place at the FIFA Play-Off Tournament.

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