18 November 2018
Nigeria’s Super Eagles drew 1-1 with hosts South Africa at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg yesterday to qualify for their first Africa Cup of Nations tournament since winning the trophy in 2013. The draw was enough to see Nigeria top Group E, with a game to spare. The dead rubber match for Nigeria, with 10 points from five matches, is at home to Group E whipping boys Seychelles. South Africa are second in the group with nine points and have to go to Libya, who have seven points, hoping to avoid defeat to be guaranteed of qualification.
The Super Eagles, despite starting their first qualifier with a 2-0 loss to South Africa in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State last year, will now fly to the tournament hosted by neighbours Cameroon, after failing to qualify for the last two competitions in 2015 and 2017.
The match itself was a case of getting the job done by Nigeria, coached by the German Gernot Rohr, without playing particularly well. With the exception of skipper Ahmed Musa, who was in the mood all afternoon, Nigeria’s midfield and attack just failed to click, as the final ball always seemed to let them down. The biggest culprits were the Premier League duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi. Early on, a combination between Iwobi and Musa set up the speedster but his shot from outside the box was saved.
Watch the highlights below.
Nigeria had a goal wrongly-ruled out for offside before they scored after eight minutes when South African defender Buhle Mkhwanazi turned the ball into his own net, following great work down the right by wing-back Samuel Kalu, from Bordeaux in the French first division.
The hosts’ response came after 25 minutes with striker Lebo Mothibu finishing a slick five-pass move that sliced through the Nigerian rearguard like a knife through butter. That goal aside, the match was lacking in quality and both sides only had one shot on target in the first half. Chances were few and far between and Iheanacho’s poor first touch meant that Nigeria didn’t go into the break in the lead.
The second half wasn’t much of an improvement. Defender Kenneth Omeruo had a close chance with a header from a Kalu freekick after 73 minutes. Nigeria had another goal, this time from Musa, wrongly-ruled out for offside with eight minutes remaining. Musa’s tweet said it all with emojis. Surely, time for Video Assisted Referees (VAR) in Africa.
— AhmedMusa718 (@Ahmedmusa718) November 17, 2018
Rohr said afterwards: “We have a bigger chance to win AFCON [Africa Cup of Nations] than the World Cup as the president [Amaju Pinnick] said we would. Our good, young team will improve. We learnt a lot at the World Cup.” Nigeria went out in the first round of the World Cup in Russia in the summer. That is an unlikely outcome in Cameroon next year, but to win the tournament would require major improvement on the showing in Johannesburg yesterday.