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World Cup 2026 qualifiers: Mohamed Salah hits four for Egypt, Nigeria held at home by Lesotho

Motlomelo Mkwanazi gave Lesotho, ranked 153rd in the world - 113 places below Nigeria - a shock lead with a 56th-minute goal from a corner

Mohamed Salah hit four goals as Egypt cruised to victory in their first qualifier for the 2026 FIFA World Cup but Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw at home by minnows Lesotho.

Motlomelo Mkwanazi gave Lesotho, ranked 153rd in the world – 113 places below Nigeria – a shock lead with a 56th-minute goal from a corner.

West Brom centre-back Semi Ajayi powerfully headed in Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner to level 11 minutes later but the Super Eagles could not find a winner in their Group C opener in a rainy Uyo.

Jose Peseiro’s side had dominated the first half but paid for their profligacy as Iheanacho saw a free-kick saved, Nottingham Forest striker Taiwo Awoniyi failed to capitalise on a promising cut-back and Ademola Lookman had a low shot across goal turned away.

Liverpool forward Salah starred as Egypt thrashed Djibouti 6-0 in Cairo while elsewhere there were wins for Algeria, Mozambique, Burundi and Gabon.

Africa has a guaranteed nine qualifiers for the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the United States, with all group winners booking a spot at the tournament.

Egyptian king makes his mark

In a Group A match totally dominated by the hosts, Salah’s first for Egypt came in the 17th minute after Mostafa Mohamed whipped in a cross from the left.

Five minutes later, Salah made it 2-0 from the penalty spot and he completed his hat-trick shortly after the break, pouncing on a ball from Ahmed El Fatouh.

With 20 minutes to go Salah bagged his fourth, with El Fatouh again the provider, and Mohamed added a fifth four minutes later.

Trezeguet completed the rout for the Pharaohs with a strike in the 89th minute inside the Cairo International Stadium.

In Group G, Algeria beat Somalia 3-1 at home after Mozambique won 3-2 away against Botswana earlier on Thursday.

A first-minute own goal set Algeria on their way in Baraki before Baghdad Bounedjah doubled the lead on the half-hour mark.

Issa Abatari pulled one back for Somalia with 25 minutes left but Islam Slimani made sure of the points for the North Africans in the 80th minute.

Gabon came from behind to beat Kenya 2-1 in Group F thanks to an 88th-minute winner, with Burundi sealing a 3-2 ‘home’ win over The Gambia in a Group F match played in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

And Sudan drew 1-1 against Togo in Benina, Libya, in Group B, which contains continental champions Senegal.

MK Dons forward Mo Eisa opened the scoring for the ‘hosts’ with a 17th-minute penalty before Kevin Denkey equalised for Togo just before the break.

In Thursday’s late match, Cape Verde and Angola drew 0-0 in their Group D opener in Praia.

Ethiopia complain about fog in Morocco

Ibrahim Sesay, goalkeeper of Sierra Leone, looks on in the fog during the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in El Jadida
Conditions in El Jadida made it difficult for Sierra Leone goalkeeper Ibrahim Sesay and his Ethiopian counterpart

Meanwhile, Ethiopia have filed a complaint with world governing body Fifa after their Group A opener against Sierra Leone on Wednesday evening was disrupted by dense fog.

The game was played in the Moroccan coastal city of El Jadida because Ethiopia do not have an international-standard venue.

The half-time break was extended and the referee stopped the game twice in the second half, with the match ending 0-0 after 15 minutes of stoppage time.

The qualifier “should have been postponed” a statement from the Ethiopia Football Federation (EFF) said.

Ethiopia are set to host Burkina Faso back at the Stade El Abdi on Tuesday evening, and the EFF have asked Fifa to bring forward the kick-off from 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT) to avoid a repeat of foggy conditions.

FIFA has been contacted for comment.

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Source
BBC
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