Benin stun Nigeria, Salah rescues Egypt, Ayew treble lifts Ghana

June 12, 2024
Benin’s David Kiki fights for the ball with Nigeria's Wilfred Ndidi during the FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers group C football match between Benin and Nigeria at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan on June 10, 2024. — AFP

JOHANNESBURG: Benin came from behind to stun Nigeria 2-1 and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah scored to salvage a 1-1 draw for Egypt against Guinea-Bissau in World Cup qualifying on Monday.


Ghana were another side to stage a fightback, defeating the Central African Republic 4-3 after trailing at half-time with Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew claiming a hat-trick. Success was particularly sweet for Benin coach Gernot Rohr, the 70-year-old German sacked by Nigeria in 2021 after five years in charge.

The victory lifted Benin, 67 places below Nigeria in the world rankings, to the top of Group C with seven points, two more than Lesotho.

Nigeria, six-time qualifiers for the World Cup and runners-up to hosts the Ivory Coast in the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations, were expected to dominate the six-team section with South Africa.

But after three draws and a loss they lie fifth with just three points. Only Zimbabwe are beneath the Super Eagles.

The defeat by Benin puts pressure on Nigeria coach Finidi George, who took over the reins when Portuguese boss Jose Pereira quit in February after the Cup of Nations. Former Nigeria star George has won only one of four competitive and friendly matches, and losing to neighbours Benin is sure to trigger criticism.

Benin, disadvantaged by having to play in Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan because they do not have a FIFA-approved stadium, fell behind after 27 minutes.

A long pass was transferred by Samuel Chukwueze to Raphael Onyedika, who bagged his first goal for Nigeria with a fierce shot. Unperturbed, Benin hit back with goals from Jodel Dossou and captain Steve Mounie before half-time to take a lead they retained till the end.

Dossou burst forward to beat goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali and Mounie celebrated his 50th cap by slamming the ball into the net after a corner was not cleared.

Benin top the table with have seven points, Lesotho have five, Rwanda and South Africa four each, Nigeria three and Zimbabwe two.

Lesotho, forced to stage home matches in South Africa as they lack an international-standard stadium, host Rwanda and South Africa play Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Salah added to his four goals against Djibouti in matchday one by equalising on 70 minutes in Bissau after Mama Balde had put Guinea-Bissau ahead just before half-time.