CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — African champion Algeria pummeled Djibouti 8-0 to open its World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday in ferocious form and extend its unbeaten run to 28 games.
Islam Slimani scored four, including the first goal in the fifth minute in Blida. Djibouti had defender Batio Mohamed Youssouf sent off in the 23rd minute, leading to the Algerian onslaught.
Slimani made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 25th, Ramy Bensebaini scored a minute later and it was 4-0 at halftime after a second Algeria penalty, this time converted by Baghdad Bounedjah.
Slimani netted his third and fourth in the opening eight minutes of the second half and Riyad Mahrez and Ramiz Zerrouki also scored for the 2019 African Cup of Nations winner.
That gave the Algerians a convincing start in Group A, which they were already favorites to top. The winners of the 10 groups will make the final playoffs and five teams from Africa will ultimately qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.
Burkina Faso, which is in Algeria’s group, Benin and Morocco also won on the second day of the qualifiers, which should have got underway at the start of the year but were rescheduled twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sadio Mane poked home from close range to send top-ranked African team Senegal on its way to a 2-0 win over Togo to start its campaign on Wednesday. Egypt edged Angola 1-0, also on the opening day of the qualifiers, after having to make do without Mane’s club teammate Mohamed Salah. Salah was prevented from traveling home to play for his country by Liverpool as Premier League teams defied FIFA in an effort to avoid having their international players caught up in British quarantine rules at the start of a new season.
Mane and Manchester City’s Mahrez were unaffected because their countries are not on Britain’s “red list” that have a compulsory 10-day quarantine for anyone arriving from there. Egypt is, however, leading to Liverpool’s refusal to release Salah for Wednesday’s game against Angola in Cairo. He’ll miss another qualifier on Sunday in Gabon. Salah tested positive for the virus on a visit to Egypt in November.
In other qualifiers on Thursday, veteran striker Dieumerci Mbokani scrambled home a cross to give Congo the lead at home against Tanzania on his return to the team. Simon Msuva let fly with a shot from way out that went in off the crossbar to earn Tanzania a 1-1 draw.
Burkina Faso created several chances but had to wait for a Lassina Traore penalty in the 76th minute to finally take the lead against Niger. Mohamed Konate made it 2-0 seconds after arriving as a substitute with a deflected shot.
That game was played in Marrakesh, Morocco because Niger is one of a number of countries to have their stadiums declared unfit for World Cup qualifiers by the Confederation of African Football. They’ll have to play “home games” in other countries. Burkina Faso is in the same situation.
Morocco beat Sudan 2-0 with a goal from defender Nayef Aguerd and an own goal by Abuaagla Abdalla. Morocco leads Group I ahead of Guinea, which drew 1-1 with Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday.
Namibia and Republic of Congo drew 1-1 in South Africa — Namibia was also told by CAF its national stadium was substandard. Captain Steve Mounie gave Benin a 1-0 win in Madagascar with a strong header from a corner, putting Benin top of Group J. That game in Antananarivo was played in front of fans, a rarity in Africa because of the pandemic.
Kenya and Uganda drew 0-0 in an East African derby that was the subject of a large amount of hype in the leadup but delivered little.
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