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



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.


Zimbabwe seals last gasp winner over Ireland in T20 Series opener



Host, Zimbabwe, started its 2023 T20 Series on a winning note after rallying back to defeat Ireland from 88-7 to 106-7 in their pursuit of an 118 to end the tie for victory, with the home side requiring 12 runs from as many deliveries at that point.

In the thrilling game played in Harare on Thursday, Ireland’s fightback was not enough as they fell just short as Zimbabwe sealed a last-ball win in the series opener.

Ireland had earlier taken control of the game and posted 147-8 while the hosts needed nine runs from their final over, winning it with two from Blessing Muzarabani off the last delivery.

Captain Sikandar Raza who was voted man of the match, took three wickets and scored 65 to lead their run chase.

Raza was supported with the bat by Wesley Madhevere, who scored 25, with wicketkeeper Clive Madande hitting 20.

Two further T20 contests between the sides will take place at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday and Sunday before three one-day games at the same venue on 13, 15 and 17 December.

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CAF Award: Osimhen, Salah, Hakimi make fiinal three shortlist



In-form Nigeria and Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, has made the final three-man list for the 2023 CAF Men’s Player of the Year Award which will hold on December 11 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Osimhen, who had a sterling last season where he led Napoli to its first Italian league title in 33 years with 26 goals to end as the first African player to win the top scorer award in the Serie A, will battle for the crown with Egyptian captain and Liverpool star, Mohamed Salah, and Moroccan defender, Achraf Hakimi, who plays for PSG in the French Ligue One.

Many football pundits in the continent have so far tipped the Lagos-born Osimhen to pick the diadem ahead of Salah and Hakimi.

The latest to give the gong to the former Lille player was mercurial ex-Super Eagles captain, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, who believes Osimhen has done enough to be named CAF Player of the Year for 2023 after his exploits with his Italian club and the Eagles.

In an interview on Wednesday, Okocha said the 24-year-old Osimhen’s consistency at the highest level had won him the prestigious gong already.

Osimhen deserves it because for me, he was the most consistent player of last season,” the former PSG midfield star said in the interview.

If Osimhen goes ahead to win the award, he will be the second Nigerian player to achieve the feat after Nwankwo Kanu who won the CAF Player of the Year Award in 1999.

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