East African country, Eritrea have announced their decision to withdraw from the qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup just six days before the country were due to play their first group fixture.
The unranked east African nation were set to travel to Morocco, who are 13th in the world rankings, on 16 November.
Group E of African qualifiers will now be contested by the five remaining teams: Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania and Niger.
World governing body Fifa confirmed Eritrea’s withdrawal on its website.
‘All of Eritrea’s matches have been cancelled, while the rest of the match schedule for Group E remains unchanged,’ a statement said.
Africa Today News, New York reports that the winners of Group E will automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup finals, which will be held in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Eritrea’s last international was a friendly against Sudan in January 2020, while their most recent competitive game was in September 2019 as part of the qualifying process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Last year Eritrea withdrew from qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, giving their opponents Botswana a bye through to the group stage.
In another report, Jose Peseiro who is the head coach of the Super Eagles, has invited 23 players for this month’s World Cup qualifying fixtures against Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
Africa Today News, New York reports that Peseiro has invited regulars like goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Ola Aina, and midfielders Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka.
Also, forwards Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Taiwo Awoniyi made the cut.
Defender Jamilu Collins makes a return to the squad after a long layoff due to injury.
There is also a first-ever call-up for Nathan Tella.