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Ivory Coast win again in World Cup qualifiers as away teams hold sway

IVORY Coast’s winning start to World Cup qualifying continued with a 2-0 victory over the Gambia as they were among five countries who had away success in group matches on Monday.

Goals from Christian Kouame and Seko Fofana ensured success for the fancied Ivorians in Dar-es-Salaam, where Gambia hosted the game because their own stadia were not deemed fit enough to host international matches.

Also victorious on the road were Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya and Madagascar while Mali were held to a surprise home draw as Africa’s preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup finals continued.

The Ivorians, who will host January’s African Cup of Nations, are now top of Group F, level on six points with second-placed Gabon, while Kenya moved into third spot on three points after their 5-0 win over the Seychelles.

That game was hosted in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast with the Seychelles another of the 19 African countries banned from using their home stadia.

Michael Olunga scored twice in the opening six minutes as Kenya, fresh from a two-year FIFA ban, went on the offensive, with Masoud Juma adding a third before the break. Rooney Onyango and substitute Benson Omala scored two more in the second half.

Equatorial Guinea captain Emilio Nsue got the winner as they triumphed away to 10-man Liberia, netting after nine minutes. He also scored the only goal of Wednesday’s home game against Namibia. The former Spanish colony now sit top of Group H.

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Guinea Bissau’s winner versus Djibouti in their Group A game in Cairo came from Swiss-based striker Mauro Rodrigues, while Madagascar won 3-0 against Chad in Group I with a brace by Njiva Rakotoharimalala and a stoppage time goal from Loic Lapoussin.

Also in Group I, Mali’s Kamory Doumbia scored in the 76th minute to put them ahead at home in Bamako against the Central African Republic but the lead lasted only two minutes before Geoffrey Kondogbia equalised.

Only the group winners advance to the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the U.S, with the four best placed runners-up getting a chance for a berth via two playoff tournaments.

Tuesday will see 15 more qualifiers, including a first for Morocco who were semi-finalists at the last World Cup in Qatar last year. They visit Tanzania in Dar-es-Salaam in Group E.

By MARK GLEESON

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