Captain Salah of Egypt guides African stars through World Cup qualifying.

Liverpool’s prolific scorer and Egypt captain, Mohamed Salah, recently secured the second-highest ranking for an African player in last month’s Ballon d’Or, following Napoli and Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen. As the 2026 World Cup qualifying matches kick off in Africa this week with two matchdays, Salah, having scored his 200th goal in English football against Brentford, is geared up to lead Egypt against Djibouti and Sierra Leone in Group A. Unfortunately, Osimhen will miss the initial matchdays due to an injury.

Other Egyptian players making an impact in major European leagues this season include Omar Marmoush of Eintracht Frankfurt and Mostafa Mohamed of Nantes. Djibouti, considered one of the weakest African national teams, faces a formidable challenge against Egypt, while Sierra Leone encounters a handicap, staging a home fixture against Egypt in Liberia due to the absence of an international-standard stadium.

Although Egypt boasts a record seven Africa Cup of Nations titles, their history in World Cup qualifying has seen them reach the finals only three times. Burkina Faso, ranked 10th in Africa, poses a strong challenge in Group A, along with Guinea-Bissau and Ethiopia.

Nigeria, missing Osimhen and injured AC Milan winger Samuel Chukwueze, faces Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Despite defensive concerns, coach Jose Peseiro has talented replacements, including Victor Boniface of Bayer Leverkusen and Taiwo Awoniyi of Nottingham Forest.

South Africa, without star Lyle Foster, is considered a significant threat to Nigeria in Group C. Ghana, led by coach Chris Hughton, faces pressure ahead of qualifiers against Madagascar and the Comoros, with veteran Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew making a return.

Morocco, the first World Cup semi-finalists from Africa in Qatar last December, will begin their qualifying campaign next Tuesday against Tanzania in Group E, alongside Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, and Niger under the coaching of Badou Zaki.

The nine group winners from the qualifiers, spanning until October 2025, secure spots in the record 48-nation finals in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Additionally, the best four runners-up will enter a mini-tournament, with the winners advancing to intercontinental playoffs for two more finals places.

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