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Mane shines as Senegal beat Togo in World Cup qualifiers

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Expectedly, top seeded African team, Senegal beat Togo on home soil in one of the Matchday 1 of the World Cup qualifying series in Africa on Wednesday.

Talismanic Sadio Mane opened the scoring as Senegal earned three points in their opening Group H encounter.

After blazing over the bar in the first half, Mane played a neat one-two before poking home just before the hour as the Liverpool star took full advantage of his ability to represent his nation.

While Mane is free to play since his matches are in countries that are not on the British government’s Covid red list, club colleague Mohamed Salah cannot  at home to Angola on Wednesday as Egypt is on the list.

Unburdened by the threat of having to quarantine for 10 days upon his return to England, Mane was lively throughout in a game wrapped up when Abdou Diallo lashed home nine minutes from time.

The victory represents a modicum of revenge for the Senegalese, who could not beat Togo as the Sparrowhawks pipped them to the 2006 World Cup when they last met at this stage.

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Senegal travel to Congo on Tuesday, while Togo seek their first points at home to Namibia on Sunday.

Elsewhere, it ended 1-1 as neighbours Guinea-Bissau and Guinea met in a World Cup qualifier for the first time in 25 years.

The game should have been played in Bissau but as the stadium there was deemed unfit by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) last month, it took place in Mauritania.

An available Liverpool player was again in the thick of the action as Naby Keita teed up Francois Kamano for Guinea’s opener before Joseph Mendes earned both sides a point in Group I.

Earlier, Central African Republic (CAR) put aside the difficulties of being barred from using their stadium when drawing 1-1 with Cape Verde as the Group C game marked the very first in Africa’s second round.

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The match was played in the Cameroonian city Douala after the national stadium in CAR capital Bangui has also been deemed unfit to host international matches by Caf.

Contesting the second qualifying round for only the second time in their history, CAR earned a vital point as Tresor Toropite fired home from close range after 53 minutes.

This levelled the scores after Julio Tavares had neatly side-footed Cape Verde in front nine minutes before the break, with the visitors then missing two decent chances to extend their advantage.

When they last contested the second round, CAR impressed in their opening game – when registering their sole World Cup qualifying win to date – before losing their remaining five matches.

The next game in Group C takes place on Friday when Nigeria host Liberia.

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Wednesday’s evening games see a Salah-less Egypt side host Angola and Gabon travel to Libya, with both games in Group F, while Mali take on Rwanda in Group E’s opening tie.

Like others, Mali should have been playing the game on home soil but will instead take to the field in the Moroccan city Agadir after their stadium did not meet Caf standards.

Mali built new stadiums to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2002 but none are now deemed suitable.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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