Ayew’s Hat-trick Lifts Ghana as Nigeria Stumbles in World Cup Qualifiers

Ayew's Hat-trick Lifts Ghana as Nigeria Stumbles in World Cup Qualifiers

Benin's head coach, Gernot Rohr, was hoisted onto the pitch by his jubilant players following their historic victory against Nigeria.

Nigeria’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign hit a roadblock with a 2-1 loss to Benin, while Jordan Ayew’s hat-trick in his 100th cap propelled Ghana to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Central African Republic.

The Super Eagles languish with just three points from four Group C matches after Benin rallied from behind. Coach Gernot Rohr, sacked by Nigeria before the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, inflicted defeat on his former employers.

Ayew’s early penalty gave Ghana the lead, but defensive lapses allowed the visitors to seize a 2-1 halftime advantage. The Crystal Palace forward’s second-half brace and a deflected goal from Leicester’s Abdul Fatawu secured Ghana’s win, despite Louis Mafouta’s hat-trick for the Central African Republic.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah’s late goal rescued a 1-1 draw for Egypt against Guinea-Bissau, preserving the Pharaohs’ unbeaten record atop Group A. Algeria also averted an upset, overcoming Uganda 2-1 in Kampala after trailing at halftime.

The nine group winners will automatically qualify for the expanded 2026 World Cup, with a 10th African team potentially advancing via an intercontinental tournament. The fourth round of matches concludes on Tuesday, with the qualifiers resuming in March 2025.

Nigeria’s Struggles Continue

The Super Eagles have yet to win in Group C, which has been marked by surprising results, leaving Lesotho atop the standings after three games. Raphael Onyedika’s 27th-minute strike put Nigeria ahead, but Jodel Dossou’s equalizer and Steve Mounie’s goal off a corner left the three-time continental champions trailing at halftime.

Nigeria’s best chance to level the match came when Ademola Lookman headed wide, with striker Paul Onuachu in a better position. Benin now leads Group C with seven points, while Nigeria is fifth, increasing the pressure on coach Finidi George.

Ayew Shines for Ghana

Ghana started strong in Kumasi after Abdul Fatawu was fouled in the box, but two quick counter-attack goals from Mafouta gave the Central African Republic a surprise 2-1 lead.

Three goals in 10 second-half minutes turned the tide for Ghana. Ayew’s header off Gideon Mensah’s cross leveled the match, and a deflected goal from Fatawu and Ayew’s close-range finish put Ghana ahead 4-2. Mafouta’s late free-kick goal couldn’t spoil Ghana’s victory.

Ayew, who also scored a late winner for Ghana in Mali, has netted eight goals in his past five international appearances. The Black Stars now lead Group I by three points over Madagascar and Comoros.

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