Soccer-DR Congo get African WC qualifying off to winning start

Credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Yoane Wissa netted the opening goal to set the Democratic Republic of Congo up for a 2-0 home win over Mauritania on the opening day of African 2026 World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Equatorial Guinea also won as the two-year long qualifying process got under way but Zimbabwe’s return to the competition ended in a draw at lowly-ranked Rwanda.

Substitute Theo Bongonda, a former Belgian Under-21 international, played the ball through for Wissa to chip the goalkeeper and put the Congolese ahead in the 63rd minute of their Group B game in Kinshasa.

Bongonda broke away and sprinted more than half the length of the field before rounding the goalkeeper for the second goal in the 81st minute

DR Congo, then known as Zaire, qualified for the 1974 World Cup but have not played in the tournament since and Senegal are their potentially toughest opponents in the six-team group.

Earlier on Wednesday, striker Emilio Nsue, 34, scored the first goal of the qualifying campaign on the continent as he fired home from close range to earn Equatorial Guinea a 1-0 home win over Namibia in Malabo.

The former Middlesbrough and Birmingham City forward took advantage of poor defending to give the small former Spanish colony a winning start in Group H.

Zimbabwe, not allowed to compete in the last World Cup qualifiers because they owed money to a former coach and have just returned from a separate FIFA ban, had opportunities to win in Rwanda but were held to a goalless Group C draw in Butare.

Because they do not have a stadium suitable for international competition, Zimbabwe's squad now stay on in Rwanda and host Nigeria at the same venue on Sunday in their next qualifier.

The Group A clash between Ethiopia and Sierra Leone in El Jadida, Morocco was goalless at halftime when it was halted as heavy mist made it impossible for play to continue.

There are nine African qualifying groups with the winners advancing to the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The four best runners-up get a further chance to qualify through a two-tier playoff system.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

((mark.gleeson@thomsonreuters.com; +27828257807; Reuters Messaging: mark.gleeson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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