On Saturday, Sadio Mane scored twice in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over South Sudan in a deserted stadium near Dakar, commemorating his 100th appearance for Senegal.
Before his substitution in the Group B first-round match, the forward from Saudi Arabia, named African Footballer of the Year twice, also assisted on a goal.
Senegal, defending African champions, have ascended to the summit of their group, surpassing the Democratic Republic of the Congo on goal difference, as they strive to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup in 2026.
The only source of dissatisfaction for Mane and his colleagues was the fact that the match had to be played behind closed doors due to crowd disturbances during last year’s match against Egypt.
Just 37 seconds into the first half, Mane assisted Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pape Sarr in scoring with a low strike past South Sudan goalkeeper Majak Mawith.
Five minutes later, he scored by capitalizing on Habib Diallo’s back heel and shaking off an opponent’s shirt-pulling to hammer home from close range.
Mawith, one of several Australian-based players on the South Sudanese squad, was once more defeated by Lamine Camara’s goal in the final minute of the opening half.
Mane converted a penalty kick at the 56-minute mark to round out the scoring in the final of 26 matchday one matches in Africa.
Eritrea withdrew without explaining, resulting in the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco securing an unexpected bye in Group E instead of the scheduled 27 encounters.
Tanzania, who began their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Niger on the strength of a 56th-minute strike from debutant Charles M’Mombwa, will host Morocco on Tuesday.
On goal differential, Tanzania lagged behind Zambia, which dispatched Congo Brazzaville 4-2 on Friday, in a division that Morocco is anticipated to dominate.
South Africa, which last hosted the World Cup thirteen years ago, advanced to the top of Group C with a sluggish 2-1 victory in Durban over Benin.
Percy Tau and Khuliso Mudau scored early and late in the first half to give Bafana Bafana (The Boys) a two-goal halftime lead.
However, a lackluster second half prevented them from establishing a lead, and Benin captain Steve Mounie exacerbated the tension by slicing the deficit in the final minutes.
Ten teams will compete in the second round beginning on Sunday, including former World Cup qualifiers Algeria, DR Congo, Egypt, and Nigeria.