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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Fierce competition resumes in Africa’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers

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The long-awaited resumption of the CAF qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is upon us, reigniting the aspirations of African nations to secure their place on the grandest stage of international football.

As the continent’s best teams prepare to lock horns from June 5th for Matchdays 3 and 4, the stakes have never been higher.

After a six-month hiatus, the Road to North America 2026 resumes with renewed vigour and determination after the opening rounds provided tantalizing matches with both established powerhouses and emerging forces showcasing their mettle.

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In Group A, the spotlight falls on the highly anticipated encounter between Egypt and Burkina Faso in Cairo. The Pharaohs, led by their new strategist Hossan Hassam, will be seeking redemption after a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign. Facing them are the Stallions of Burkina Faso, who have also undergone a managerial change, with Brama Traore at the helm. This clash promises to be a captivating battle of wits and resilience, potentially reshaping the group’s dynamic.

Elsewhere in Group A, Guinea-Bissau, buoyed by their AFCON experience under Luis Boa Morte, will host Ethiopia, while Sierra Leone and Djibouti, still searching for their first win, will clash in El Jadida. Every point will be invaluable in this tightly contested group.

In Group B, the reigning AFCON champions, Senegal, find themselves level on points with Sudan at the summit. The Lions of Teranga will host Congo DR in Diamniadio, aiming to solidify their position. Congo DR, fresh from their impressive AFCON run, will undoubtedly provide a stern test for Aliou Cissé’s men. Meanwhile, Sudan will travel to Mauritania, hoping to capitalize on their recent friendly success against Tanzania.

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Group C promises to be a thrilling affair, with Rwanda surprisingly leading the pack, closely followed by powerhouses Nigeria and South Africa. The Super Eagles, under new leadership with Finidi George at the helm, will face a daunting challenge against South Africa in Uyo. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, led by interim coach Jairos Tapera, will take on Lesotho in Johannesburg, adding another layer of unpredictability to this fiercely competitive group.

The stakes are equally high in Group D, where Cameroon and Cabo Verde, both sitting on four points, will go head-to-head in Yaounde. Libya and Angola are also in contention, making this group one of the most open and unpredictable. Angola will host Eswatini, looking to build on their mixed AFCON performance, while Libya and Mauritius will clash in a crucial encounter.

Group E presents a unique challenge, with only four teams vying for qualification following Eritrea’s withdrawal. Morocco and Zambia, both on three points, will face off in a pivotal encounter in Agadir. Both nations will be eager to bounce back from their AFCON disappointments and establish themselves as the group’s frontrunners. Congo, still searching for their first points, will seek redemption against Niger in Kinshasa.

Côte d’Ivoire leads Group F with a perfect record, and their clash against Gabon in Korhogo promises to be a captivating affair. Emerse Fae, the newly appointed Ivorian coach who led the team to AFCON glory, faces a stern test against the Gabonese. Elsewhere in the group, Kenya and Burundi will lock horns, while The Gambia and Seychelles will also battle for crucial points.

In Group G, Algeria, under the guidance of former Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic, will aim to extend their lead when they host Guinea in Baraki. Botswana, Uganda, and Mozambique are all in close contention, setting the stage for intense battles as they vie for a place in North America.

Group H promises another enthralling chapter, with Tunisia and Namibia both boasting perfect records. Tunisia, under caretaker coach Montasser Louhichi, will face Equatorial Guinea in Rades, while Namibia takes on Liberia in Johannesburg. The group’s dynamics are set to shift further with matches involving Malawi and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Finally, Group I sees Comoros leading with six points, followed closely by Mali. Ghana, with Otto Addo returning as coach, will look to revive their campaign against Mali in Bamako. Central African Republic and Chad are also in the mix, adding an extra layer of intrigue to this group’s proceedings.

As the African qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup resume, the continent’s best teams are poised to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of glory.  

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