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Ivory Coast, Morocco win vital World Cup qualifiers

African champions Ivory Coast and World Cup semi-finalists Morocco have registered vital wins in qualification for the 2026 showpiece, but Nigeria were held at home by South Africa to remain winless in the preliminaries.

Seko Fofana's 36th-minute strike marked a successful homecoming for the Ivorians, playing their first home match since winning the Africa Cup of Nations in February, as they beat Gabon 1-0 in Korhogo to go clear at the top of Group F.

A soft-looking penalty saw Hakim Ziyech put Morocco ahead after six minutes against Zambia in Agadir in Group E, but there was nothing fortuitous about their second in the 67th minute as Brahim Diaz's mazy run set up teenage debutant Eliesse Ben Seghir, who recently switched allegiance from France.

Zambia pulled a goal back from Edward Chilufya in the 80th minute but Morocco held out for a 2-1 triumph.

Veteran Themba Zwane had South Africa ahead at half-time away in Uyo in Group C, but it took Nigeria just 37 seconds into the second half to equalise through former Manchester City junior Fisayo Dele-Bashiru.

Nigeria have now drawn their opening three qualifiers, two of them at home.

Earlier on Friday, Lesotho kept up their giant-killing start to the qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe in Johannesburg.

Rethabile Rasethuntsa and Thabantso Jane scored in the first half of Zimbabwe's home match, which was played in neighbouring South Africa because of a ban on Zimbabwean stadiums that are not up to standard for international matches.

Lesotho had held Nigeria in their opening qualifier in November and now have five points after three games.

Burundi also upset the odds as they held fellow east Africans Kenya 1-1 in neutral Lilongwe, with an 85th-minute equaliser from Sudi Abdallah after a defensive error.

Hosts Kenya, whose home game it was, had gone ahead in the 72nd minute through substitute Duke Abuya.

Both Mozambique and Uganda joined Algeria and Guinea at the head of Group G with two wins out of three matches after home victories.

Mozambique were 2-0 up against Somalia after 30 minutes but in the end had to hold on for a 2-1 victory, while Mohamed Shaban got a 74th-minute winner for Uganda at home to Botswana in Kampala.

Angola were a goal to the good after two minutes at home to Eswatini but could not add to Mabululu's effort. But they still won to stay unbeaten in Group D and join Libya at the top of the standings.

Rayon Raveloson grabbed a double as Madagascar won 2-1 in their island derby over the Comoros at Soccer City in Johannesburg to make it two wins out of three in Group I.

Madagascar now have six points to join the Comoros, who had won both their opening qualifiers in November, and Ghana at the top of Group I in the battle for a place at the 2026 finals in North America.

There are nine African qualifying groups with the winner advancing to the finals. A potential extra place is available for the best-placed runner-up through playoffs with other continents.

The last two matches in the third round of qualification will be played on Saturday with the fourth round of fixtures starting on Sunday.