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Tough 2026 World Cup qualifying marathon kicks off



Africa’s marathon 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign kicks off on Wednesday, 15th November with 40 nations vying for the continent’s nine automatic finals spots in North America. 

The continent’s gruelling road to the World Cup is often described as the most arduous in football as exciting home fans adding some attraction to the tough qualifying matches.

But with FIFA expanding the finals to 48 teams, Africa’s representation rises from five to nine direct places in 2026 which provides an extra incentive during qualification, which runs until October 2025.

Africa’s trailblazers in Qatar, received a bye this week after Eritrea withdrew before their scheduled meeting.

That postpones the return of World Cup stars like Achraf Hakimi and Youssef En-Nesyri until next week Tuesday when they take on Tanzania.


The Atlas Lions stunned Belgium, Spain and Portugal en route to the semi-finals of the World Cup last year to become the first African side to reach the last four of the global competition.

As Africa’s World Cup hopefuls embark on the long road to the 2026 World Cup, giants like Nigeria, Ghana and African champions Senegal are eager to impress.

Nigeria, aiming for a seventh World Cup appearance, are without injured stars Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze for games against Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

But Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro can still call on quality replacements, including Victor Boniface and Taiwo Awoniyi. Concerns persist over goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, however.

Elsewhere, Ghana coach Chris Hughton is under pressure ahead of matches against Madagascar and Comoros. Veteran midfielder Andre Ayew returns to help after the Black Stars’ recent heavy defeat by the USA.


Continent champions Senegal, spearheaded by Sadio Mane, enter the fray next week. The 2022 quarter-finalists shape as serious contenders to go deep again in 2026.

Cameroon, Africa’s most regular World Cup participants with eight appearances, start their campaign against minnows Mauritius before facing Libya.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe return from a year-long FIFA suspension for government interference to face Rwanda on Wednesday.

However, Zimbabwe are among 19 sides prohibited from hosting home qualifiers in substandard stadiums.

The likes of Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia and Somalia will also play ‘home’ fixtures at neutral venues. Zimbabwe take on regional rivals Nigeria in Rwanda this weekend.


With only nine group winners advancing to the finals, plus one playoff spot, the stakes are high from Matchday One.

For Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and company, conquering the continent represents the first step towards World Cup glory in North America. Their two-year quest starts today.

Africa’s MatchDay 1 & 2 Fixtures


Wednesday NOV 15

  • Group C:Rwanda v Zimbabwe – 2pm
  • Group H:Equatorial Guinea v Namibia – 2pm
  • Group B: Congo DR v Mauritania – 5pm
  • Group A: Ethiopia v Sierra Leone – 8pm



Thursday Nov 16


  • Group F:Burundi v Gambia – 2pm
  • Group G:Botswana v Mozambique – 2pm
  • Group A: Egypt v Djibouti – 5pm
  • Group B: Sudan v. Togo – 5pm
  • Group C:Nigeria v Lesotho – 5pm
  • Group F:Gabon v Kenya – 5pm
  • Group G:Algeria v Somalia – 5pm
  • Group D:Cape Verde v Angola -8pm
  • Group E: Morocco v Eritrea -8pm


Friday Nov 17


  • Group D:Eswatini v Libya – 2pm
  • Group G: Guinea v Uganda  -2pm
  • Group I:Comoros v Central African Republic – 2pm
  • Group E:Zambia v Congo -5pm
  • Group H: Liberia v Malawi -5pm
  • Group I:Ghana v Madagascar – 5pm
  • Group A:Burkina Faso Guinea Bissau – 8pm
  • Group D:Cameroon v Mauritius – 8pm
  • Group F: Cote d’Ivoire v Seychelles -8pm
  • Group H:Tunisia v Sao Tome – 8pm
  • Group I:Mali v. Chad – 8pm


Saturday Nov 18


  • Group C:South Africa v. Benin -2pm
  • Group E: Niger v. Tanzania – 5pm
  • Group B:Senegal v South Sudan – 8pm


Sunday Nov 19


  • Group C: Zimbabwe v Nigeria – 2pm; Butare, Rwanda
  • Group F:Burundi v Gabon – 2pm; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Group G: Mozambique v Algeria – 2pm; Maputo, Mozambique
  • Group A:Sierra Leone v. Egypt-  5pm; Paynesville, Liberia
  • Group B: Sudan v. Congo DR –  5pm; Benina, Libya


Monday Nov 20

  • Group A:Djibouti v Guinea Bissau -4pm;  Cairo, Egypt
  • Group H:Liberia v Equatorial Guinea – 5pm; Paynesville, Liberia
  • Group F: Seychelles v Kenya – 8pm; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Group F:Gambia v Côte d’Ivoire – 5pm;  Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Group I:Mali v Central African Rep. – 8pm; Bamako, Mali
  • Group I:Chad v Madagascar – 8pm;  Oujda, Morocco


Tuesday 21 November

  • Group C:Lesotho v Benin – 2pm;  Durban, South Africa
  • Group C:Rwanda v South Africa -2pm;  Butare, Rwanda
  • Group D:Eswatini v Cape Verde – 2pm; Nelspruit, South Africa
  • Group G: Somalia v Uganda – 2pm; Berkane, Morocco
  • Group G: Botswana v Guinea – 2pm; Francistown, Botswana
  • Group H: Malawi v Tunisia- 2pm;  Lilongwe, Malawi
  • Group B:South Sudan v Mauritania- 5pm; Diamniadio, Senegal
  • Group B:Togo v Senegal – 5pm;  Lome, Togo
  • Group H:Sao Tome e Principe v Namibia-  5pm;   Agadir, Morocco
  • Group D:Libya v Cameroon – 5pm;   Benina, Libya
  • Group I: Comoros v Ghana – 5pm; Moroni, Comoros
  • Group D:Mauritius v Angola – 5pm; Saint Pierre, Mauritius
  • Group E: Niger v Zambia –  8pm; Marrakesh, Morocco
  • Group A:Ethiopia v Burkina Faso – 8pm El Jadida, Morocco
  • Group E:Tanzania v Morocco  8pm; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania




Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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World Cup

Home grounds of Barcelona, Real Madrid among 11 proposed World Cup 2030 venues



- Real Madrid celebrate winning the Champions League - Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - June 2, 2024 General view inside the stadium and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the Champions League celebration with fans REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) has proposed 11 stadiums as candidates to host matches during the 2030 World Cup, including the home arenas of LaLiga clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Spain, who will co-host the tournament with Portugal and Morocco as well as centenary hosts Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, will also have 45 additional grounds as team bases, the RFEF said on Friday.

Other LaLiga clubs whose home arenas have made the list include Sevilla, Malaga, Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao, Las Palmas and promoted Espanyol.

Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, despite being the fifth-largest stadium in LaLiga with a capacity of 49,430, was not included in the list of potential venues.

“In order to define the venues, all the possibilities have been analysed, including the option of expanding to 13, an option that must be taken unanimously by the three federations,” the RFEF said in a statement.


The tournament will have a maximum of 20 venues, the RFEF added.

Co-hosts Morocco last year announced plans to build a stadium near Casablanca and upgrade six others before the World Cup.


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World Cup

It’s 28 years since Super Eagles’ worst competitive defeat



Denmark unexpectedly beat Nigeria 4-1


Denmark face Germany on Saturday hoping to recreate their famous victory at the Euro 92 when they secured their first title, although they were the underdogs.

 This day 28 June, a day before their Round of 16 Euro 2024 clash with Germany also brings the memory of their famous Round of 16 win over Nigeria at the France ‘98 World Cup.

Their 4-1 defeat of the Super Eagles remains the biggest defeat that the Nigerians have gotten in a competitive duel in nearly 30 years.

 It was an unexpected result considering that the Super Eagles contributed to the elimination of one of the tournaments favourites, Spain.


A goal down under two minutes and two down under 12 minutes presented a huge mountain for the Super Eagles to climb.

 What a twist of an event most had thought the Nigerian team would be the dominant side.

The world was awaiting a match-up of Nigeria and Brazil in the quarter-finals.

It was to rekindle the memorable encounter of both countries’ Olympic teams two years earlier when Nigeria famously defeated Brazil 4-3 in a golden goal decider at the semi-finals.

     A rematch at the quarter finals of France ’98 would have brought up a novel match-up of reigning Olympic gold medallists and reigning World Cup holders. It turned out a mere dream.


 Nigeria’s manager, Bora Milutinović fielded a starting line-up with seven midfielders and no attacker.

Could that had been a new tactical formation in football in a knockout game Nigeria had to score and win? Call it the 3-7-0. Call it overconfidence.

      Even Nigeria’s manager was reportedly half-kiddingly remarked before the match: “We’ve got a very important match coming up in Nantes” – a reference to a possible quarter-final meeting  with Brazil.

  Member of the team, Mutiu Adepoju told Sports Village Square that poor tactical approach cost Nigeria the match.     “The game was taken as a routine one and hence, no special preparation for it.

  “The coaches did not even border to get insight into the Denmark team”, said Adepoju who was called ‘Headmaster’  for his heading skill. It was with an header that he scored Nigeria’s first goal that put scores at 1-1 in a 3-2 defeat of Spain in the opening match.


  He dismissed a well publicised claim by teammate, Taribo West that the players had busy nights with women prior to the match.

  He however admitted that there was discontentment in camp and that the coaching crew lost control of the team.

  It came light that the players did not sleep all night as the now very familiar agitations for enhanced match bonuses came up.

As published in the on-line version of Al-Jazeera in 2014, Sunday Oliseh was quoted as saying: “We wasted too much energy on the eve of our game haggling over bonus, something like that should not be the focus at a big tournament like the World Cup. “We lost that game off the pitch and not on the pitch.”           

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World Cup

FIFA awards win to Niger after Congo no-show in World Cup qualifier




FIFA has awarded Niger a win and the full three points in a 2026 World Cup soccer qualifier with Congo that was postponed this month, the world governing body said on Wednesday.

Congo had refused to travel to Kinshasa, capital of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, for their home game after their stadium in Brazzaville was deemed not to have met hosting requirements.

Niger did travel, and were awarded the game 3-0, which leaves them second in Group E on six points, three behind leaders Morocco. Congo are stuck on zero points from their three matches.

Only the top team in each of the nine pools is guaranteed a place at the expanded World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to declare the match lost by forfeit 3-0 by the representative team of Congo,” FIFA said in a statement.


It said the Alphonse Massemba-Debat Stadium in Brazzaville could not have been used until renovations, including the laying of a new pitch, were completed

Congolese Sports Minister Hughes Nguilondile declared the stadium ready in late May, but it was deemed too late to move the fixture. FIFA ordered it to go ahead in Kinshasa as originally planned, leading to Congo’s withdrawal in protest.


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