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Senegal win, Tunisia draw to lead World Cup qualifying groups

Published : Tuesday, 11 June, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 93

JOHANNESBURG, JUNE 10: Senegal got back on the winning trail and Tunisia surrendered a perfect record as the fourth round of 2026 World Cup qualifiers in Africa kicked off on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia-based Habib Diallo headed the first-half goal that gave Senegal a 1-0 Group B victory away to west African neighbours Mauritania in Nouakchott, and first place.

A run of three straight wins by Group H leaders Tunisia ended when they drew 0-0 away to Namibia, who played in South Africa because the country does not have a FIFA-approved stadium.

Meschak Elia scored a superb goal as the Democratic Republic of Congo followed up a creditable midweek draw in Senegal by edging Togo 1-0 in Kinshasa.

Liberia snatched a last-minute 1-0 win over Sao Tome e Principe and Djibouti and Ethiopia drew 1-1 in other matches.

Mauritania and DR Congo were the only countries able to play in front of their supporters with Sao Tome and Djibouti, like Namibia, lacking international-standard venues.

Goals were scarce with the five matches producing just five. The best came from winger Elia, who plays his club football in Switzerland.  

Collecting the ball just inside the Togo half, he dashed down the wing, cut into the area, and beat goalkeeper Wassiou Ouro-Gneni with a lofted shot into the far corner.

Diallo scored a simpler goal, giving Mauritanian goalkeeper Babacar Niasse no chance with a close-range header off a cross.

Senegal, seeking a third consecutive appearance at the World Cup, top the table with eight points, Sudan and DR Congo have seven each, Togo three, South Sudan two and Mauritania one.

The leadership could change on Tuesday as Sudan will regain first place if they win away to South Sudan in the first competitive match between the countries.

Namibia dropped points at home for the second successive match, with the dour stalemate against Tunisia coming after a draw with Liberia.

The Namibians thought they had scored on 14 minutes through Charles Hambira, but the referee awarded a free kick to Tunisia for a foul on goalkeeper Bechir Ben Said.  

The draws reinforce the view of Namibia coach and former Bundesliga defender Collin Benjamin that not being able to play in Windhoek is a huge blow.

"We cannot hope to qualify for the World Cup when forced to play all 10 qualifying matches on the road," he says.

liberia left it late to pip Sao Tome with Sheikh Sesay hammering a loose ball into the net in the final minute of regular time in Moroccan city Oujda.

Tunisia, who are seeking a seventh World Cup appearance, lead with 10 points, Namibia have eight, Liberia seven, Malawi six and Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome none.        —AFP

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