The 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign kicked off with a resounding start for Senegal, with Sadio Mane excelling. The reigning African champions secured a convincing 4-0 victory against South Sudan on Saturday. The Teranga Lions, playing in Group B, wasted no time asserting their dominance as Tottenham midfielder Pape Matar Sarr found the net just 40 seconds into the game. Sadio Mane, celebrating his 100th appearance for Senegal, added a second goal just four minutes later, setting the tone for a remarkable night.
Lamine Camara, a 19-year-old debutant, contributed to Senegal’s commanding lead with a goal on the stroke of half-time. Mane continued to shine after the break, scoring again from the penalty spot. Despite a late effort by Habib Diallo ruled out for offside, Senegal emerged as Group B leaders after the opening round, edging ahead of DR Congo on goal difference.
Looking ahead to their next qualifier against Togo in Lome on Tuesday, Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse made strategic substitutions just after the hour mark, ensuring key players like Mane and Sarr received deserved rest.
In other matches, Tanzania secured a 1-0 victory against Niger in neutral Marrakesh, launching their Group E campaign. Australia-based striker Charles M’Mombwa, making his debut, scored the lone goal in the second half, providing a positive start for the Taifa Stars.
South Africa initiated Saturday’s World Cup qualifying action in Group C with a 2-1 win over Benin in Durban. Percy Tau of Al Ahly scored in the second minute, setting the tone for an early lead. Khuliso Mudau doubled the advantage just before halftime, but a late goal by Steve Mounie kept South African fans on edge. Nevertheless, Bafana Bafana held on for the victory, placing them at the top of Group C, which includes Nigeria.
Speaking of Nigeria, the Super Eagles, held to a 1-1 draw at home to Lesotho on Thursday, will seek redemption against Zimbabwe in Rwanda on Sunday in their second Group C qualifier.
The 2026 World Cup holds particular significance for African nations, with nine guaranteed slots for the finals in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Group winners secure direct qualification, intensifying the competition as teams strive to make their mark on the global stage. As the tournament progresses, eyes remain fixed on the journey of African teams, each aiming to secure a place in football history.