Island derby lights up 2026 World Cup qualifiers

An island derby in the World Cup qualifiers will be played at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Friday as Madagascar take on the Comoros Islands in their Group I clash.

The Mahamasina Municipal Stadium in Antananarivo is unavailable for Madagascar’s home matches in the qualifying campaign this month and so the team is using the 2010 World Cup final venue to host the Comoros and then Mali next Monday.

Comoros are the surprise leader after the first two rounds of qualifiers in November, beating the Central African Republic 4-2 at home and then upsetting Ghana as well.

The results handed them six points out of six in the race for a place at the 2026 World Cup, to be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Only the winner of each of the nine African groups will qualify, plus one of the runners-up if they can get through a complicated playoff route.

Madagascar lost their opening group game away at Ghana, one of the group favourites, but then won 3-0 away over Chad to signal their potential in the campaign.

The proximity of the two island nations, and their close family ties, marks this out as a fascinating clash, albeit likely with empty stands in Johannesburg when it would be packed to capacity had it been played in the Malagasy capital.

The two teams know each well from frequent clashes in the Indian Ocean Island games but in other competition have met only once, in preliminary round of the 2010 World cup qualifiers where Madagascar won 6-2 at home and 4-0 away.

That result came in Comoros’ early days of international competition, but the small island archipelago has grown into a dangerous for in the African game, reaching the last 16 on their Africa Cup of Nations finals debut in Cameroon just over two years ago.

Madagascar coach Romuald Félix Rakotondrabe picked 24 players in his squad with a surprise selection from the seventh tier of French football — Julien Pontgerard, striker from amateur club AS Brestoise.

He is described as an “attacker with impressive physical volume, extremely generous for the collective, capable of putting his head where people would not dare to put their foot” but it will be a major step up for him.

Comoros coach Stefano Cusino, unbeaten in his six games in charge, picked 24 players with a promotion from the under-20 side for Rayan Lutin from French club Amiens.

Faïz Mattoir, unavailable for more than a year due to a cruciate ligament injury, is back while top scorer El Fardou Ben Mohamed and Rafidine Abdullah restored to the squad after previously being left out. Rafiki Saïd, however, is injured, and Ahmed Mogni dropped.

Also included is the 19-year-old defensive midfielder Raimane Daou, who won his first two caps earlier this year and who signed his first professional contract with Olympique de Marseille last week.

After the match with Madagascar, the Coelacanths will travel to Morocco for the next meeting at the Oujda municipal stadium against Chad.

Goalkeepers: Teva Gardies (Paris FC, France), Zakanirina Rakotoasimbola (Elgeco Plus), Laiton Sony (Auxerre, France)

Defenders: Nomena Andriantiana (Aubagne, France), Louis Démoléon (Budoni, Italy), Titouan Fortun (Nantes, France), Thomas Fontaine (Sochaux, France), Rado Niaina Rabemanantsoa (AS Fanalamanga), Sandro Tremoulet (RFC Seraing, Belgium)

Midfielders: Ibrahim Amada (Ratchaburi, Thailand), Rojolalaina Andriamanjato (Saint-Pauloise, Reunion), Clément Couturier (Swift Hesperange, Luxemburg), Ando Manoelantsoa (Saint-Pierroise, Reunion), Rayan Raveloson (Auxerre, France), Andy Rakotondrajoa (Disciples)

Forwards: Hakim Abdallah (Dinamo Bucharest, Romania), Carolus Andriamahitsinoro (Al Kawkab, Saudi Arabia), Angelo Andrianantenaina (Excelsior, Reunion), Loïc Lapoussin (Union Saint-Gilloise, Belgium), Julien Pontgerard (AS Brestoise, France), Tendry Mataniah Randrianarijaona (Disciples), Arnaud Randrianantenaina (El Gouna, Egypt), Olivier Randriatsiferana (Saint-Pauloise, Reunion),

Goalkeepers: Adel Anzimati-Aboudou (Quevilly Rouen, France), Salim Ben Boina (Épinal, France), Yannick Pandor (Racing Lens, France)

Defenders: Abdel Akim Abdallah (Rodez, France), Saïd Bakari (Sparta Rotterdam, Netherlands), Raimane Daou (Olympique de Marseille, France), Kassim Mdahoma (Goal FC, France), Abdallah Ali Mohamed   (Stade Lausanne Ouchy, Switzerland), Ahmed Soilihi (Martigues, France), Mohamed Youssouf (AC Ajaccio, France), Younn Zahary (Zalgiris Vilnius, Lithuania)

Midfielders: Rafidine Abdullah (Servette Geneva, Switzerland), Aymeric Ahmed (Royal Excelsior Virton, Belgium), Yacine Bourhane (Esbjerg, Denmark), Rayan Lutin (Amiens, France), Youssouf Mchangama (Troyes, France), Iyad Mohamed (Pau, France), Bendjaloud Youssouf (Dunkerque, France)

Forwards: El Fardou Ben Mohamed (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus), Adel Mahamoud (Nantes, France), Myziane Maolida (Hibernian, Scotland), Faïz Mattoir (Almere City, Netherlands), Faiz Selemani (Al-Hazem, Saudi Arabia), Ibroihim Youssouf (unattached)