Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick on Sunday as Egypt won 4-2 in Zimbabwe to keep up their 100 percent run in the World Cup qualifiers for next year’s finals in Brazil.
Their hopes of ensuring top place in Group G and advancing to the last phase of the African preliminaries were put on hold, though, when Guinea beat Mozambique 6-1 in the group’s other game.
The goals from the 20-year-old Salah, who plays at Swiss champions Basle, confirmed his emergence as a new hero for Egyptian soccer.
Mohamed Aboutrika, who has for a decade been a talismanic performer for the Pharaohs, opened the scoring after only six minutes and proved the perfect foil for Salah to add another three.
Egypt, the only African side with a 100 percent record, advanced onto 12 points with two games to play, five ahead of Guinea.
Islam Slimani scored twice as Algeria came from behind to score a significant 3-1 away win over Benin in Porto Novo, taking over top place in Group H after Mali were held to a surprise home draw by lowly Rwanda in Bamako.
Rudy Gestede, who won recent promotion to the English Premier League with Cardiff City, scored in only his second international to put Benin ahead.
Slimani then scored twice in the space of four minutes before the break to turn around the tie.
Togo again had to do without Emmanuel Adebayor, but they got their first win of the campaign by beating Cameroon 2-0 in Lome.
The win put Togo suddenly in contention in Group I, albeit two points behind joint leaders Libya and Cameroon.
There was also a first victory in Group E for Burkina Faso, runners-up at the Africa Cup of Nations finals at the start of the year.
Jonathan Pitroipa, voted the best player of the tournament in South Africa, scored nine minutes from time away to Niger in Niamey.
Burkina Faso are still four points behind leaders Congo with two rounds to play.
The next round of fixtures are scheduled for tomorrow and at the weekend, with the last group of matches scheduled for September.
The 10 group winners go through to the playoffs in October and November to determine the five African qualifiers for Brazil.