Wednesday Nov 15, 2023. 10:17
Africa’s qualifying tournament for the 2026 World Cup will begin in earnest on Wednesday 15 November, with four matches across the continent kick-starting a busy schedule which will run for seven straight days.
The action begins in Groups C and H in the mid-afternoon, as Rwanda welcome Zimbabwe to Stade Huye in Butare, and Namibia visit Equatorial Guinea at Estadio de Malabo respectively.
The Warriors make a return to competitive action after being banned from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers due to government interference, and have Brazilian Baltemar Brito in charge.
“Let’s unite and rally behind the national team,” said Brito, who was appointed as an interim coach in September. “We are here to do our best. Everyone is here to do their best, so we expect the nation to give the best of support. We will try to create a good moment for [the supporters].”
Namibia coach Collin Benjamin, meanwhile, has demonstrated his ruthlessness by axing attacking midfielder Leevi Alfeus from the squad after he arrived late to training camp.
“Representing one’s country should be about pride, honour and humility, and it is a great opportunity that many talented players aspire to, but only a few are chosen. Leevi’s reasoning for arriving late was not good enough; hence, we let him go from the training so he could work on his attitude towards his country and fellow players,” said Benjamin.
The early-evening clash comes from Group B, as DR Congo hosts Mauritania at Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, while the late kick-off sees Ethiopia ‘host’ Sierra Leone in a Group A battle at Stade El Abdi in Morocco (due to a lack of CAF-approved venues).
The Walia Ibex will be entering a new era under Gebremedhin Haile, who was only confirmed as their new coach earlier this month.
“I’m excited to return to the national team after more than six years,” said Haile, who had a short stint in charge of the Ethiopian national team in 2016.
CAF World Cup Qualifiers fixtures, Wednesday 15 November
15:00: Equatorial Guinea v Namibia
15:00: Rwanda v Zimbabwe
18:00: DR Congo v Mauritania
21:00: Ethiopia v Sierra Leone