Despite being champions of Africa in 2013, the Super Eagles of Nigeria missed out of the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). On Saturday, Nigeria booked their ticket to the 2019 AFCON after being held to a 1-1 draw by the Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg.
When the AFCON qualifier draws were made in January 2017, Nigeria were grouped alongside South Africa, Libya and Seychelles with only the group winners assured of a place in Cameroon. Originally, all group winners plus three best runners-up would have qualified for the finals. There are 12 groups.
The Super Eagles staggered at the start of the qualifiers, losing 2-0 to South Africa in Uyo in June 2017. Three consecutive wins against Seychelles and Libya meant that a point in Johannesburg would secure qualification with a game to spare, thanks to the expansion of the AFCON from 16 to 24 teams. The expansion happened a month after Rantie and Tau put the Super Eagles to the sword in Uyo. The expansion meant that the group winners and runners-up would qualify for the tournament.
The South Africans also needed a win to confirm qualification but they would wait till next year to see if they can beat Libya away. They couldn’t beat Seychelles away. Libya beat Seychelles 8-1 in Seychelles. The Bafana Bafana may glory over the 4 points gained from the Super Eagles and thank the officials for disallowing those goals but they would need a miracle to be in Cameroon.
With a game to spare, Nigeria can afford to relax. 10 points in the kitty and 3 more than Libya, the Super Eagles can play a weakened side against Seychelles in March 2017. Will Rohr feature his fringe players or will he invite new bloods, NPFL players or an Enyimba XI against the Pirates? Any of the above mentioned team should secure Nigeria’s 4th victory of the group.
Cameroon are our geographical neighbours. We can start making preparations for the first AFCON to be planned in June. This is not the World Cup and thus there will be no excuses for Rohr not to perform in the AFCON. We will talk about expectations later.
For now, congratulations Super Eagles.
Bonus Reading: South Africa 1-1 Nigeria: What did we Learn?