African heavyweights in trouble after the June 2026 World Cup qualifiers

African heavyweights in trouble after the June 2026 World Cup qualifiers
Nigeria players dejected after loss during the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers match between Benin and Nigeria at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan, Cote dIvoire on 10 June 2024 ©Alou Dao/BackpagePix

by Staff Reporter

Wednesday Jun 12, 2024. 13:58

It might still be early days in the race to qualify for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States, but we look at some of the big teams that have failed to live up to expectations after four matches.

Senegal (ranked 2nd in Africa)

Senegal have emerged as a powerhouse on the continent in recent years, with the Lions of Teranga’s maiden title triumph at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations paving the way for a successful period of dominance for their youth teams and the women’s national team.

However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Aliou Cisse’s side in Group B despite getting off to a flying start with a 4-0 victory over South Sudan on November 18. The former African champions were held to a 0-0 draw by Togo three days later and they also dropped points in a 1-1 stalemate with DR Congo on June 9.

Senegal were wasteful against Mauritania on June 9 as they ran out narrow 1-0 victors, placing them second in the group on eight points, two behind surprise leaders Sudan.

Nigeria (ranked 5th in Africa)

Nigeria are in serious danger of missing out on the global showpiece as they’ve struggled to get going in Group C. The Super Eagles impressed at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations under Jose Peseiro, making it all the way to the final before being beaten 2-1 by hosts Ivory Coast.

Peseiro has since vacated his role as head coach and Finidi George took over the reins last month, but he hasn’t managed to get the best out of his players yet.

The absence of reigning 2023 African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen hasn’t helped their cause, although no-one could have foreseen the West African giants failing to win their opening four group games. George’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa on home soil on June 7 before suffering a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Benin three days later, leaving them four points off the pace down in fifth place.

Mali (ranked 9th in Africa)

Mali were expected to be Ghana’s main challengers to qualify automatically from Group I, but they’ve stuttered since beating Chad 3-1 on matchday 1. The Eagles squandered the lead against Central African Republic on November 20 and had to settle for a 1-1 draw before going down 2-1 to the Black Stars on June 6 after also surrendering their lead.

Eric Chelle’s side dominated proceedings against Madagascar on June 11, although they lacked a killer instinct in front of goal and only claimed a point after playing out to a goalless draw which has left them four points behind joint-leaders Comoros and Ghana in fourth spot.

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