Algeria may regret the decision to allow Riyad Mahrez to leave the team camp to sort out his club future. Without its best player, Algeria lost 3-1 in Zambia in World Cup qualifying on Saturday to stay last in its group.
The defeat to a Zambia team that played most of the second half with 10 men leaves Algeria _ Africa’s top-ranked team a few years ago _ with little hope of making it to Russia next year.
The North Africans are one of three teams that represented Africa at the last World Cup which are highly unlikely to repeat in 2018. African champion Cameroon and Ghana are also way off the pace in their groups.
Ivory Coast is on track, a 3-0 win Saturday confirmed that, while Sadio Mane’s Senegal is hanging in there.
A roundup of World Cup qualifying games in Africa on Saturday:
Mahrez was given permission by Algerian officials to travel back to Europe in the hope of securing a move away from Leicester in time for the transfer deadline. A transfer didn’t happen for Mahrez and, with the winger unable to get to Zambia in time, Saturday’s qualifier didn’t go to plan for Algeria.
Zambia striker Brian Mwila hit the woodwork in the opening minutes, headed in Zambia’s first in the sixth minute, and made it 2-0 in the 32nd. Yacine Brahimi’s long-range shot put Algeria back in the game early in the second half.
But even after Zambia’s Fashion Sakala was sent off for a second yellow card in the 56th, Algeria couldn’t score again despite a man advantage for over 30 minutes. Substitute Enock Mwepu netted Zambia’s third with two minutes left.
Algeria is eight points behind runaway group leader Nigeria with three games remaining in qualifying. Only the five group winners qualify for the World Cup.
Marc Wilmots led Ivory Coast to a 3-0 win in Gabon in his first competitive match in charge.
Wilmots was brought in as coach after Ivory Coast, the defending champion, crashed out of the African Cup of Nations in Gabon in the first round at the beginning of the year. The Ivorians eased some of those bad memories on their return to the country, with second-half goals from Max Gradel and two from Seydou Doumbia taking Ivory Coast back to the top of Group C ahead of Morocco.
Senegal and Burkina Faso defenses didn’t give an inch in their 0-0 draw, leaving little space for Mane to operate in.
There were few chances in Dakar. Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for Senegal near the end after his second yellow card.
Burkina Faso still leads Group D and holds the qualifying place but just one point separates the top three teams.