CAPE TOWN: Sadio Mane scored for Senegal as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 home win over Togo as Africa kicked off the group phase of their preliminary competition on Wednesday.
Egypt, Libya and Mali were also winners in their respective group games while Mane’s Liverpool team mate Naby Keita helped Guinea to a 1-1 away draw at Guinea Bissau.
Mane netted the opening goal for Senegal in their Group H clash in Dakar after a tidy combination of passes in the 56th minute followed by a volley from Paris St Germain defender Abdou Diallo, making his competitive debut for Senegal after switching his allegiance from France, for whom he played at under-21 level.
Keita captained Guinea away in Bissau where Francois Kamano put the visitors ahead after seven minutes before Joseph Mendes equalised for the hosts a minute into the second half of the Group I tie.
Egypt, who went to the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, had to do without Mohamed Salah due to the refusal of English clubs to release players to travel to countries on the British government’s COVID-19 red list because of the 10-day quarantine they would face on their return.
Without him, Egypt turned in a feeble performance against Angola in Cairo but still won 1-0 after Magdi Asha converted an early penalty.
Adama Traore scored the winner for Mali as they edged Rwanda 1-0 in Agadir, Morocco, while Libya came from behind to beat Gabon 2-1 in Benghazi.
Gabon, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in the line-up, went ahead early but Libya fought back and snatched a last- minute winner from Sanad Al Warfali.
The qualifiers began earlier on Wednesday in Cameroon where the Central African Republic hosted their Group C qualifier against the Cape Verde Islands because their own stadiums were declared unfit for international matches by the Confederation of African Football.
Cape Verde went ahead through Julio Tavares in the driving rain but a mistake by their goalkeeper Vozinha allowed Tresor Toropite to equalise in the 53rd minute.
There are seven more African qualifiers on Thursday, including African champions Algeria at home to minnows Djibouti while Morocco, who qualified for Russia 2018, host Sudan.