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Penalty hands Tunisia victory as Africa’s World Cup qualifiers resume

TUNISIA needed a late penalty to beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 and move to the top of the standings in their World Cup qualifying group as Africa’s preliminaries for the 2026 finals resumed.

Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane struck the 81st-minute spot kick to deny Equatorial Guinea a deserved point as they looked to shrug off the FIFA sanctions that stripped them of the six points from their opening two qualifiers in November.

FIFA found striker Emilio Nsue, a former Spanish junior international, was ineligible to play for the small central African nation despite being in the team over the past 11 years and reversed Equatorial Guinea’s victories in their opening two matches against Namibia and Liberia.

But the sanction that has seen Nsue, top scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations finals at the start of the year, suspended for six months looked to have a little ill effect on Equatorial Guinea, as they again punched above their weight against one of Africa’s top achievers.

The goal came after a collision between Jannick Buyla and Tunisia’s flying fullback Hamza Mathlouthi that the referee deemed a push.

Tunisia moved to nine points in Group H, above Namibia who were held earlier in the day to a 1-1 draw by Liberia in Soweto, South Africa.

Tjipee Karuuombe made a surging run from deep in midfield to get onto a delightful chip from Ben Namib to steer home the ball after eight minutes for Namibia, forced to move the match because of the lack of a suitable stadium.

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Terry Sackor got the equaliser in the 65th minute as Liberia finally profited from the long throw that created endless havoc in the home defence.

Togo, who went to the World Cup finals in 2006, were held to a surprise home draw by South Sudan after opening the scoring through their German-born striker Khaled Narey in the 61st minute.

But South Sudan, who have never won a World Cup qualifier, were level within seven minutes after an own goal by Roger Ahoulou.

OWN GOAL

The midfielder also conceded an own goal in last month’s African Champions League final as his club Esperance of Tunisia lost 1-0 on aggregate to Al Ahly of Egypt.

Former Aston Villa defender Curtis Davis, who debuted for Sierra Leone last year at the age of 38 after previously winning England under-21 caps, got the opening goal against Djibouti in El Jadida.

But the small Red Sea state equalised through a 35th-minute penalty, converted by Gabriel Dadzie, born in Ghana but naturalised after playing club football in Djibouti.

Augustus Kargbo snatched the second-half winner for an unconvincing 2-1 triumph that advanced the Lone Stars to four points in Group A.

Djibouti have now lost their last nine World Cup qualifiers.

French-based midfielder Venuste Baboula got the only goal after 29 minutes as the Central African Republic edged Chad 1-0 in Oujda in Group I.

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Like Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic hosted their home match in Morocco because their own facilities were deemed not up to international standard.

Africa’s qualifiers continue on Thursday with 10 more qualifiers, including games for Ghana and Senegal, who were at the last finals in Qatar in 2022.

By MARK GLEESON

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