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Prodigious Liverpool striker and Egypt captain, Mohamed Salah will be among the players in action this week as 2026 World Cup qualification in Africa begins with two matchdays.


His two Premier League goals against Brentford at the weekend brought his Premier League total to 200, and he is now poised to shine against Group A rivals Djibouti and Sierra Leone.

Salah was the highest-ranked African in the Ballon d’Or last month, trailing only Napoli and Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen, who is out for the first two matchdays due to injury.

Other Egyptians who have been scoring consistently in prominent European leagues this season include Eintracht Frankfurt’s Omar Marmoush and Nantes’ Mostafa Mohamed.

Djibouti, who meet Egypt in Cairo on Thursday, is one of Africa’s weakest national teams, having suffered eight-goal defeats in World Cup qualifiers twice.

Sierra Leone will be hampered by the fact that they must host Egypt in Liberia on Sunday due to a lack of an international-standard facility.

Egypt has won the Africa Cup of Nations seven times in a row, but has struggled in World Cup qualifying, reaching the finals only three times, compared to Cameroon’s eight appearances.

Burkina Faso, rated 10th in Africa, five places below Egypt, could pose the most difficult challenge to Salah and his teammates. The other Group A contenders are Guinea-Bissau and Ethiopia.

Nigeria will be without Osimhen, one of the favorites to win the CAF Footballer of the Year award next month, as well as AC Milan winger Samuel Chukwueze, who is sidelined.

However, Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro has a plethora of potential players to select from, including Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface and Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi.

However, there are doubts over the Super Eagles defense, with Cyprus-based goalkeeper Francis Uzoho under fire for his performances in two recent friendlies.

Zimbabwe has returned to international football following a FIFA ban for government intervention that prevented them from competing in the 2024 Cup of Nations qualifying.


They are one of 17 African countries that cannot play at home due to inadequate venues or safety concerns and will host Nigeria in the Rwandan city of Butare.

South Africa is regarded as Nigeria’s biggest threat in Group C, although they will face Benin at home and Rwanda away without star Lyle Foster.

The Burnley forward, the Premier League’s sole South African, has been sidelined by a return of a mental health problem.

Chris Hughton, the former Premier League manager, acknowledges he is under pressure as Ghana’s coach ahead of qualifiers against Madagascar and the Comoros.

“They are two games we must do well in,” he said amid media calls for his dismissal after a four-goal friendly hiding by the United States last month.

Veteran Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew, who joined Ligue 1 outfit Le Havre last weekend, has been recalled, but an injury rules out another midfielder, Thomas Partey from Arsenal.

Last December in Qatar Morocco became the first World Cup semi-finalists from Africa, but they will not be involved in matchday one as opponents Eritrea withdrew without an explanation.

As a result, Saudi Arabia-based goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi, and Sevilla attacker Youssef en-Nesyri will make their Atlas Lions debut on Tuesday.

Their delayed qualification will take place away to Tanzania in Group E, which also contains a resurgent Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, and Niger, who are expected to employ Moroccan coach Badou Zaki.

The nine group winners from 260 qualifiers will compete in the record 48 nation finals in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The best four runners-up will compete in a mini-tournament, with the winners advancing to inter-continental play-offs with two finals spots up for grabs.