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African countries jostle for 2026 FIFA World Cup slots as qualifiers begin

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African teams have begun jostling for places in the 2026 edition of the FIFA World Cup, as the qualifiers kicked off on Wednesday with four matches played.

Nine group winners in the African qualifications will qualify automatically for the expanded 48-team tournament which will hold in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

In the opening encounters, four matches were played in Butare, Malabo, Kinshasa and El Jadida in what was the opening day of the qualifiers for the quadrennial global tournament, and will set the tone for an expected hectic next few days.

The matches on display were:

Rwanda vs Zimbabwe: 0-0

Zimbabwe played their first competitive match since January 2022 following a FIFA ban and held Rwanda to a 0-0 draw at Stade Huye in Group C which also has Nigeria and Lesotho.

The draw would seem a good one for Nigeria who take on The Crocodiles on Thursday as a win will see them sit at the top of the log with maximum points.

Equitorial Guinea vs Namibia: 1-0

In Group H, Equitorial Guinea managed to pip Namibia6 1-0 with the only goal of the match scored by former Middlesbrough and Birmingham City striker, Emilio Nsue, in the 67th minute separating the two sides in the match played at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo.

DR Congo vs Mauritania: 2-0

Brentford midfielder, Yoane Wissa was on the scoresheet for DR Congo as they began their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Mauritania.

Wissa showed the stuff he was made of when he slotted home from 10 yards to put the Leopards ahead in the 62nd minute before Theo Bongonda rounded off a counter-attack with nine minutes remaining to seal a valuable win in the Group B opener at the Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecote in Kinshasa.

Ethiopia vs Sierra Leone: 0-0

Ethiopia and Sierra Leone settled for another goalless draw on the first day of the qualifiers in a Group A tie played in neutral Morocco.

The match, initially scheduled for Addis Ababa, was moved to Morocco due to the conflict in the Horn of Africa nation.

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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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