FIFA World Cup 2026, African Qualifiers: Kelechi Iheanacho's Equaliser Salvages 1-1 Draw For Nigeria Against Zimbabwe

Kelechi Iheanacho's goal in the 67th minute secured a 1-1 draw for Nigeria in the 2026 FIFA World Cup African qualifying game. The match was held in Rwanda due to lack of suitable stadiums in Zimbabwe

File image of Nigeria national football team

Kelechi Iheanacho equalised to salvage a 1-1 draw for Nigeria against Zimbabwe as both sides opened their World Cup qualifying campaigns with two consecutive draws. Zimbabwe, hosting games in Rwanda because of a lack of suitable stadiums at home, took the lead in the 26th minute on Sunday through a free kick by forward Walter Musona, who hammered the ball into the top corner from 30 yards out. (Football News)

The better side in the first half, Zimbabwe appeared unfazed by the opposition's pedigree, knocking the ball around confidently and defending solidly when out of possession. Nigeria came into the game in the second half, though Zimbabwe also had chances to win. Leicester forward Iheanacho, a second-half substitute for the Super Eagles, scored the equalizer in the 67th with a clinical finish inside the box after he was set up by captain Moses Simon.   

In their opening matches, Zimbabwe drew 0-0 away to Rwanda on Wednesday while Nigeria was surprisingly held to a 1-1 at home draw by Lesotho on Thursday. The result leaves both teams on two points in Group C, one point behind leader South Africa, which has a game in hand. The slow start to their qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup will be cause for concern for Nigeria's coach José Peseiro, who was criticized following the draw with Lesotho in Uyo.     

Nigeria has been to six World Cups, but failed to qualify for the last edition in Qatar in 2022. The 63-year-old Portuguese will likely come under pressure again, despite Nigeria's chances of qualifying this time around being boosted by the expansion of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams starting in 2026 in the United States, Mexico and Canada.     

Nine teams from Africa will qualify directly, and a 10th team could make the field through an inter-continental playoff. In other matches, Mozambique lost 2-0 at home to Algeria in Group G, while Gabon beat Burundi 2-1 in Group F.     

Egypt Win Again   

Trezeguet netted a brace later Sunday in Egypt's 2-0 win over 10-man Sierra Leone to take his goal tally to three in the campaign after two games. The 29-year-old forward, who also scored in Egypt's 6-0 demolition of Djibouti three days ago, got his first goal against Sierra Leone after intercepting a pass from an opposition defender.     

He was on target again in the 62nd, scoring with a deflected shot off Mohamed Salah's assist. Salah, who scored four goals against Djibouti, also looked threatening Sunday but couldn't carry his scoring form to Liberian capital Monrovia, Sierra Leone's adopted home. Egypt, whose last of three World Cup appearances was in 2018, leads Group A with six points.     

Sierra Leone, which had Tyrese Fornah shown a straight red card late in the first half, is second from bottom on one point. Both Egypt and Sierra Leone have played a game more than the other teams in the group. In Group B, Sudan beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0.