Ndzinisa stars as Eswatini win first 2025 Afcon qualifier

football20 March 2024 23:50| © AFP
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Sabelo Ndzinisa scored twice for Eswatini in a 3-0 victory over Somalia on Wednesday in the first of 152 qualifiers for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Morocco.

Ndzinisa, a 32-year-old forward from the Green Mamba club in the southern Africa kingdom, broke the deadlock after 32 minutes and netted again in first-half added time.

Somalia began the second half strongly only to fall even further behind on 55 minutes when Justice Figuareido scored.

The preliminary round first leg result means Eswatini are virtually certain to secure a place in the group stage after the return match in the South African city of Mbombela on Tuesday.

Somalia hosted Eswatini in the Moroccan port city of El Jadida, 9 500 kilometres (5 900 miles) from their east African homeland, because of security concerns.

Last weekend, three people were killed in a siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Somalia chose to play in north-west Africa rather than a geographically closer country because all their expenses were paid by Morocco.

They now face an 11 500-kilometre journey to Mbombela, where Eswatini stage home fixtures as they do not have an international-standard stadium.

Djibouti play Liberia later Wednesday, and Sao Tome e Principe face South Sudan and Chad meet Mauritius on Friday in other first legs.

The preliminary round involves the eight lowest ranked teams and the overall victors join 44 other nations in a draw that will create 12 groups with winners and runners-up qualifying for the tournament.