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North African teams draw first blood in Qatar World Cup 2022 qualifiers

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The eagerly awaited first-leg matches of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying matches to determine African qualifiers for the Mundial held across the continent on Friday, was dominated by North African teams with Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia picking crucuial away wins.

Egypt pipped their AFCON 2021 conquerors, Senegal, 1-0, and Algeria replicated same against Cameroon, while Morocco brightened their chances by drawing 1-1 away to DR Congo, and Mali gifted Tunisia a 1-0 away win through an own goal.

However, the much anticipated West African derby between Ghana and Nigeria ended in a 0-0 stalemate in what many fans described as a boring affair but with the return leg on Tuesday in Abuja, the die is cast for the long held ‘Jollof Derby’ to be settled once and for all.

With just five goals scored across the five first-leg matches in Africa’s World Cup qualifying playoffs, the return legs may not be as cagey as the first leg matches showed.

Egypt humbles Senegal

An unfortunate own goal in the 4th minute by Senegal’s Saliou Ciss was all Egypt needed to pip the African champions 1-0 in the first leg of their World Cup play-off in Cairo.

The mistake which forced Ciss to turn the ball pass Eduoard Mendy came from a shot by Mohamed Salah which struck the defender and flew past the Chelsea keeper to nestle in the back of the net.

The game which featured Liverpool’s win strike stars, Salah and Sadio Mane, was touted to be a repeat of the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations final which Senegal won on penalties after a pulsating 0-0 draw, but the match turned out to be a cagey affair with few chances created by either sides.

Algeria pips Cameroon for crucial lead

Cameroon have a mountain to climb when they face Algeria in the second leg after Islam Slimani’s headed goal gave the former African champions a 1-0 away victory to take put one foot in the World Cup in Qatar.

Algeria will host Caneroon in the return tie in Blida on Tuesday, and may well be dreaming of their fifth appearance at the Mundial.

Morocco in the driver’s seat after draw in DR Congo

A brilliant Tarik Tissoudali equaliser late in the game saw Morocco fight back after an earlier missed penalty, to earn a 1-1 draw away at Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Kinshasa.

The draw moves the North African giants closer to a sixth World Cup appearance in Qatar with the second leg billed for Casablanca looking a sure win for the host.

Yoane Wissa had given DRC a credible 12th-minute lead after he beat the offside trap down the left wing, before cutting inside and unleashing a shot from just outside the box that took a slight defection off a Moroccan defender and beating goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to his blind side.

With away goals counting double on the continent, odds favour Morocco to take the day on Tuesday.

Unfortunate Mali hands Tunisia initiative

Malian defender Moussa Sissako, was the villain as his unforced own goal gave Tunisia the away goal.

Sissako scored the bizarre own goal in the 36th minute when his attempt to pass the ball back to his keeper sailed into an empty net.

He was then sent off four minutes later after being adjudged to have tripped a Tunisian attacker as the last man in defense.

Even a goal and a man down, Mali had chances to at least draw level with Yves Bissouma missing two sisters, but in the end, it was Tunisia that smiled last with the second leg looking almost done and dusted.

Drab stalemate in Ghana and Nigeria ‘Jollof Derby’

The matchup between eternal rivals, Ghana and Nigeria had generated so much reviews with the much touted ‘Jollodf Derby’ billed to be the biggest match of the day.

But at the end of 90 minutes, both set of fans were disappointed at the dean barren draw at the packed Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.

The only excitement in an otherwise forgettable derby was the the VAR controversy which denied Nigeria a obvious penalty in the second half half after a Ghanaian midfielder, Iddrisu Baba, had scooped the ball with his hands under pressure from Nigerian strikers.

A review of the decision in the closing stages of the west African showdown found that Baba was fouled before he handled the ball.

However, the two countries still have Tuesday to end the ‘Jollof Debate’ at the MKO Stadium in Abuja.

Final Results

Egypt 1-0 Senegal

Ghana 0-0 Nigeria

Cameroon 0-1 Algeria

Mali 0-1 Tunisia

DRC 1-1 Morocco

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Saudi club Al Hilal places African transfer record bid for Osimhen

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Victor Osimhen scored his first hat-trick for Napoli (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia club side, Al-Hilal, have reportedly made an African transfer record bid for Super Eagles and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen.

Reports in the Italian media say the Saudi giants are willing to pay Napoli the €130 million it quoted as transfer fee for the 25-year-old Nigerian, a fee that has seen top European clubs like PSG, Arsenal Chelsea and Manchester United all backing out of the race to sign the forward.

According to Repubblica Newspaper, the withdrawal of other suitors have put Al-Hilal in pole position to snatch Osimhen, with the Saudi Arabian giants ready to table an offer that meets Napoli’s valuation of Osimhen, an offer that will be a record for an African player.

Osimhen’s agent Roberto Calenda, is expected to meet with Napoli’s President, Aurelio De Laurentiis, and present the offer to him.

If Napoli accepts the offer, the new African transfer record will break the €86 million mark that Osimhen reached when moving from LOSC Lille to Napoli four years ago.

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PSG reportedly pulls out of signing Victor Osimhen as negotiations break down

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Victor Osimhen is back with a bang (Photo Credit: Napoli FC)

French Ligue 1 giants, Paris Saint-Germain, have reportedly pulled out of signing Nigerian and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, after negotiations between the two clubs broke down.

Football transfer expert, Fabrizio Romano, who announced news on his X handle, said talks between PSG and Napoli regarding Osimhen were at a standstill after the French champions initially expressed interest in signing the Nigerian marksman.

“Paris Saint-Germain won’t pay the clause and talks are in stand-by at current conditions, no chance to include Kang-in Lee,” Romano wrote.

“Osimhen could also consider Saudi League bids, as Napoli want Lukaku to replace him,” the transfer guru added.

Reports in Italy day Napoli’s disastrous 2023/24 season have contributed to the reduction in the number of suitors vying for Osimhen’s signature, which left PSG as the only team which still retained interest in his services.

Three PSG players, Carlos Soler, Nordi Mukiele and Lee Kang-in were reportedly put on the table in a player-plus-cash deal but PSG have now taken a step back.

“However, even the Parisians are now gradually backing off, with the striker’s current release clause standing at €130m,” an Italian sport tabloid wrote.

According to Calcio Mercato, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis currently has no interest in parting ways with Osimhen for anything below his release clause.

“It is understood that PSG are the only interested club at the moment but will not go ahead under the current circumstances despite losing star man Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid,” the paper said.

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