African heavyweights gear up for 2026 World Cup qualifiers

Several African heavyweights will be gearing up for the start of qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup when they participate in high-profile international friendlies spanning from yesterday to Wednesday, October 18.

First up was Egypt, who faced Zambia at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in the UAE yesterday. The Pharaohs coach, Rui Vitoria, used the match against Chipolopolo, and one against arch rivals, Algeria, on Monday, to fine tune ahead of the World Cup qualifiers and Africa Cup of Nations in early 2024.

“I may not seem to like it, but all my life I have been an emotional person, and sometimes relationships with other people make me either satisfied or sad,” said the Portuguese coach.

“My conviction is that I came to Egypt to take on this challenge. I may win or I may lose, but I had the feeling and desire to take on the challenge.”

Yesterday also, Russia hosted Cameroon, just as Algeria tackled Cape Verde.

Today features Tunisia playing in Seoul against South Korea, South Africa hosting Eswatini in Johannesburg and Saudi Arabia facing Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the Municipal Stadium in Portimao, Portugal.

Nigeria coach, Jose Peseiro, showed his commitment by accepting a pay cut on his new contract with the federation, insisting that “I and my staff did everything in order to stay here to train these players and reach the big goal, win the AFCON title.”

Tomorrow and Sunday are headlined by Ivory Coast hosting Morocco in Abidjan, while Ghana will face Mexico in Charlotte in the United States – with Black Stars coach, Chris Hughton, dropping Andre Ayew and then dealing with an injury crisis which saw Tariq Lamptey, Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku, and Osman Bukari all forced to withdraw.

Ghana will also play the US in a second friendly on the morning of Wednesday, October18.

Monday features a high-profile clash between reigning African champions, Senegal, and Cameroon in Lens, France. The Teranga Lions have seen several of their key players head to Saudi Arabia to play club football, but centre-back, Kalidou Koulibaly, insists that this will not affect the national team.

“Coach Aliou Cisse had no reservations, even though he had said in the past that he didn’t want players who played in those leagues,” explained Koulibaly.

“He changed his mind. As they say, only stupid people don’t change their minds. To be successful in the national team, you have to be successful in Saudi Arabia.

“We’ve got closer with Edou [Mendy], Habib [Diallo] and Sadio [Mané], and that’s going to strengthen our ties even more ahead of the AFCON.”

Tuesday sees Tunisia face Japan in Kobe, Mali will tackle Saudi Arabia in Portugal, and South Africa will test their readiness for a return to the Africa Cup of Nations next year when they face tournament hosts, Cote d’Ivoire, at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan. –Supersport

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