Ivory Coast enjoyed a goal rout at the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign but fellow African heavyweights Cameroon, Ghana and Tunisia made heavy work of home games against lowly opposition on Friday.
The Ivorians, who will host January’s Africa Cup of Nations, won 9-0 at home to the Seychelles in their Group F opener in a bright start to their bid for a place at the 2026 finals when the World Cup will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
Tunisia captain Youssef Msakni was among the scorers as they won 4-0 at home to 186th ranked Sao Tome e Principe in Group H.
Cameroon, who have been to more World Cups than any other African nation, had to battle for a 3-0 win against Mauritius, 134 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
Bryan Mbuemo’s close-range finish on the stroke of halftime opened the scoring and the Indomitable Lions added two more late goals in their Group D game in Douala.
There was an even more laboured home win for Ghana, who finally broke the deadlock six minutes into stoppage time at home to Madagascar in Group I as former Spain international Iñaki Williams scored his first goal for the Black Stars.
The Comoros Islands won 4-2 in the same group against the Central African Republic at home in Moroni, while 30-year-old debutant Youssoufou Niakate was among the scorers as Mali beat Chad 3-1 in Bamako in their game in the section.
Patson Daka scored twice as Zambia began their Group E campaign with a 4-2 home win over Congo in Ndola, fighting back from a 2-1 deficit after 15 minutes.
Guinea are among the 19 African countries forced to move their home qualifiers to neutral venues because of poor facilities or concern over the security situation in their country.
Despite the absence of skipper Naby Keita, Guinea took an early lead but Uganda, with Belgian coach Paul Put in charge for the first time, levelled through Fahad Bayo on the half hour.
Eswatini hosted their Group D clash over the border in Nelspruit, South Africa but lost to Libya for whom Ahmed Ekrawa scored the only goal early in the second half.
A further three qualifiers will be played on Saturday to complete the first round of matches in the African zone.
There are nine groups in the African preliminaries where the winner qualifies for the 2026 finals. The four best runners-up get a further chance to qualify in a two-tier playoff system.