Group A of the World Cup qualifiers begins on Wednesday at the Ben M’Hamed El Abdi Stadium with a match between Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.
Both teams will enter the group opener hoping to start their quest for a 2026 World Cup debut on a positive note after their disappointing Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaigns.
On September 8, Ethiopia lost 1-0 against Egypt, the seven-time African champion, to cap off another poor 2023 AFCON qualifying season.
Since their unexpected 2-0 victory over Egypt on June 9, Gebremedhin Haile’s team has now played seven consecutive competitive games without a victory, losing five and drawing two.
Ethiopia, ranked 143rd in the most recent FIFA World Rankings, will try to move past their disappointing performance in the AFCON qualifiers as they start their journey to make their World Cup debut.
The East Africans came closest in 2014, when they emerged victorious from Group A with 13 points from six games; however, their dreams were shattered at the penultimate hurdle, as they lost to Nigeria 4-1 on aggregate in the playoffs.
However, when the two countries met in a friendly match at the Stade Municipal de Berrechid on October 14, Sierra Leone came back to win as they defeated Somalia 2-0.
This came after a 1-1 tie with Benin, in which Mohamed Buya Turay, a striker based in Denmark, opened the score. However, in the ninth minute of stoppage time, Angers defender Cedric Hountondji scored to force a share of the spoils.
With just five points, Sierra Leone placed third in Group A, eight points behind Guinea Bissau, the runner-up.
Here is how both teams line up
Ethiopia Starting XI
Sierra Leone Starting XI