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Riyad Mahrez celebrated being included on Friday among 30 Ballon d’Or nominees by scoring twice as he captained Algeria to a 6-1 thrashing of Niger in World Cup qualifying.

The result in Blida kept the reigning African champions top of Group A, ahead of Burkina Faso on goal difference in a two-team fight to finish first and qualify for the final elimination round next March.

It also stretched Algeria’s undefeated run to 30 matches.

Both Mahrez goals came from set pieces as he converted a free-kick to break the deadlock on 27 minutes and give the Desert Foxes a 1-0 half-time advantage.

After Sofiane Feghouli doubled the lead two minutes into the second half, Manchester City winger and former African Footballer of the Year Mahrez scored from a penalty on the hour for a 3-1 lead.

Nigerien Zakariya Souleymane conceded an own-goal and Islam Slimani took his World Cup qualifying goal tally to six with a brace.

Mahrez and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah are the two Africans vying for the Ballon d’Or, which honours the best footballer in the world after a poll among national team coaches and captains and journalists.

Algeria have hosted Niger – who are 89 places below the north Africans in the latest FIFA world rankings – three times in World Cup qualifying and scored 16 goals while conceding just one.

Read Also: WCQ: Marmoush fires Egypt’s Pharaohs past Libya

The Blida blitz stretched to 30 matches the unbeaten run of Algeria, who last lost in October 2018 away to Benin in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Abdoul Tapsoba scored twice for Burkina Faso in a 4-0 victory over Djibouti, who hosted the match in Moroccan city Marrakech because they do not have an international-standard stadium.

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