Nov. 14, 2019 at 12:26 pm Updated Nov. 14, 2019 at 3:50 pm
Defending champion Algeria launched its qualifying campaign for the 2021 African Cup of Nations by routing Zambia 5-0 on Thursday.
Egypt missed Mohamed Salah when it was held 1-1 at home by Kenya. Ghana beat South Africa 2-0.
There was a big upset in Togo when Comoros, the Indian Ocean island country of less than a million people, won 1-0 to be the surprise early leader in Egypt’s group.
The decisive final group stage of qualifying, which began Wednesday, will see 23 teams join host Cameroon at the African Cup finals in two years.
Four months after winning the 2019 title in Egypt, Algeria underlined its status as continental champion by overpowering another former Cup of Nations winner.
It took Algeria until a minute before halftime to lead Zambia when defender Ramy Bensebaini forced the ball in with his shoulder. But the North Africans added four more goals in the second half. Baghdad Bounedjah, whose goal won Algeria the African Cup in Cairo, scored twice in Blida against the Zambians and rounded off the dominant victory with a penalty in the final minute.
Without injured star forward Salah, Egypt led Kenya in Alexandria when Mahmoud Kahraba pounced on a poor back pass from Erick Ouma just before halftime. But Michael Olunga intercepted Mohamed Elneny’s pass and drove a shot past Egypt goalkeeper Ahmed el-Shenawy to equalize in the 67th minute.
Egypt pressed hard in the final 20 minutes but couldn’t find another goal.
Salah is also expected to be sidelined for Egypt’s second qualifier, in Comoros on Monday