Mohamed Salah scored four goals to lead Egypt past Djibouti on Thursday, but rivals Nigeria stumbled at home on Matchday One of African 2026 World Cup qualifying.
Salah netted four times as Egypt thumped minnows Djibouti 6-0 in Cairo to launch their bid for a place at the expanded 2026 finals.
The Liverpool star has now scored 53 goals in 93 games for his country.
But elsewhere, Nigeria were held to a shock 1-1 home draw by Lesotho in Group C despite dominating the game. Semi Ajayi’s late equaliser spared Nigeria’s blushes after a Motlomelo Mkhwanazi opener.
The result ramps up pressure on Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro just months out from the Africa Cup of Nations.
Injured striker Victor Osimhen was sorely missed as Nigeria lacked cutting edge against the minnows. Peseiro’s men face a quick response when they meet Sierra Leone on Sunday.
Mozambique claimed a rare away win in Botswana to liven up Group G, while Algeria were unconvincing 3-1 victors over Somalia as coach Djamel Belmadi took off stars Riyad Mahrez and Amine Gouiri at halftime.
Elsewhere, Gabon fought back to edge Kenya 2-1 thanks to late strikes from MLS top scorer Denis Bouanga and Guelor Kanga.
And Burundi won their first game 3-2 against the Gambia in Tanzania. Sudan and Togo drew 1-1 in their Libya-hosted clash.
Cape Verde and Angola failed to capitalise on their Group D opener, drawing 0-0 in a game of missed chances.
With 40 African sides vying for just nine direct World Cup spots, plus one inter-confederation playoff place, the stakes are enormous from the outset.
The opening two rounds of games take place this week before resuming next June.