Johannesburg, South Africa: The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Saturday drew 1-1 with hosts South Africa in Johannesburg to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) billed for June next year in Cameroon.
Nigeria opened scoring after nine minutes when a solo run by Samuel Kalu saw his shot being deflected in by South African defender Buhle Mkhwanazi.
The hosts fought back and piled pressure on the Nigerian side, and after some resistance, the visiting side’s defence line caved in.
Lebo Mothiba finished off a pass from Percy Tau in the 26th minute to draw the home side level.
The win moved Nigeria to the top of their 2019 AFCON Qualifiers Group E with 10 points from five matches.
South Africa are in second place with nine points from the same number of matches, while Libya who hammered Seychelles 8-1 in the group’s other match are with seven points.
The group’s final set of matches will come up on March 22, with Nigeria hosting Seychelles who have one point, and Libya hosting South Africa.
Either of the two teams can pick the last ticket of the group to Cameroon. South Africa need a draw, and Libya a win.
Nigeria who have won three matches, drawn one and lost one look set to finish as group leaders.
They have not lost since Match Day 1 in June 2017 when they lost 0-2 to South Africa in Uyo.
A win in March over Seychelles, whom they beat 3-0 in Victoria in September, will set them far apart from either Libya or South Africa.
The Bafana Bafana need to draw against Libya, who will host them in Tunisia in March, in order to stay second and qualify.
Libya need a win to finish in second place too, and they look likely to get it based on current form.
However, all permutations can be thrown out the door if Seychelles beat Nigeria, even though this would not bar Nigeria from qualifying since it is either South Africa or Libya that can qualify.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday, congratulated the Super Eagles on their qualification for next year’s African Cup of Nations.
After the Super Eagles drew with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Buhari in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said he joined millions of football-loving Nigerians in commending the team for their performance against a very formidable opponent which earned them qualification with the final match against Seychelles a mere formality.
Part of the statement read, “Having keenly followed the senior national football team’s progress in the qualifying stages, President Buhari is enthused by their confidence, sense of patriotism and professionalism, and commends these attributes to other Nigerians.
“He equally commends the coaching crew, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Supporters Club, especially Nigerians residing in South Africa who turned out in great numbers to cheer the players, for a job well-done, and assures them of the unflinching support of the Federal Government going forward,” he said.
Meanwhile, Atiku shared his congratulatory message via his verified Twitter handle, @atiku.
He said, “Congratulations SuperEagles on qualifying for the 2019 AFCON. We will be here to cheer you to victory in the coming tournament.”
Congratulations @NGSuperEagles on qualifying for the 2019 #AFCON. We will be here to cheer you to victory in the coming tournament. https://t.co/S7W9vsWaLn — Atiku Abubakar (@atiku)
Uganda beats Cape Verde to seal AFCON qualification
Uganda has qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Cape Verde 1-0 in Saturday’s Group L qualifier in Kira.
KCCA FC striker Patrick Kaddu headed home the lone goal after 84 minutes following an excellent cross by substitute Allan Kyambadde.
The Cranes now have 13 points from five games ahead of their final qualifier against Tanzania in March, by which point the Taifa Stars could already have sealed their spot in Cameroon.
In front of a noisy crowd at the Mandela National Stadium, coach Sebastien Desabre’s team played cautiously and defended in number.
Farouk Miya and Isaac Muleme had chances to put the hosts ahead early in the first half, but Cape Verde goalkeeper Thierry Graca was up to the task.
Jorge Semedo also had his close-range shot saved by Denis Onyango after 40 minutes.
The Cape Verde team returned looking hungry to get a goal as they kept Ugandan defenders very busy.
After 75 minutes, the Cranes were lucky when Heldon Ramos’ goal-bound shot was cleared for a corner by Murushid Juuko after the forwards had rounded Uganda’s goalkeeper Onyango.
However, Kaddu’s goal changed the intensity of the contest, and Uganda went close to bagging a second through Miya.
Tanzania, on five points, will qualify if they beat Lesotho away on Sunday. However, failure to win that match would open the door to either the islanders or the Crocodiles to qualify in second place alongside Uganda.
Mahrez hands Algeria 2019 AFCON ticket
Riyad Mahrez scored two stunning goals as former winners Algeria qualified for next year’s African Nations Cup finals, with Guinea, Mauritania and the Ivory Coast also sealing their places.
Mahrez struck twice in the opening half hour as Algeria, who won the continental title in 1990, sped into a three-goal lead away against Togo before eventually winning 4-1.
The victory pushed them to top place in Group D.
Mauritania qualified for the first time from Group I as they came from a goal down to beat Botswana 2-1 in Nouakchott with Ismael Diakite scoring an 84th minute winner.
Guinea qualified without kicking a ball several hours before their Group H game against Cote d’Ivoire in Conakry, when Rwanda and the Central African Republic drew 2-2 in Kigali.
Guinea then went on to win the group with a 1-1 home draw.
The Ivorians got the point they needed for qualification when Jean-Michael Seri equalised Mohamed Yattara’s early goal for the hosts.
Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Zimbabwe all missed out on a chance to book their berths.
Burkina Faso were beaten 2-1 in Angola while captain Willam Jebor scored the only goal as Liberia checked Zimbabwe 1-0 in Monrovia.
Tanzania lost 1-0 away in Lesotho, who won a rare competitive international with a header from tall centre back Nkau Lerotholi.
2012 champions Zambia were eliminated from the race in Group K as they went down in Maputo to Mozambique with Reginaldo’s 63rd minute goal separating the two teams.
Jordan Ayew scored twice as he and his brother Dede returned to the Ghana team for the first time in a year to help beat Ethiopia 2-0 away in Group F.
The derby between Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo ended 1-1 in Brazzaville, keeping both sides’ chances alive in Group G.
The top two teams in the 12 groups qualify except Group B which includes already-qualified tournament hosts Cameroon, where Morocco have made sure of the lone slot.
Egypt, Madagascar, Senegal and Tunisia all booked their place last month while Mali, Morocco, Nigeria and Uganda were added to the list on Saturday.
The rest of the 24-team line-up will be decided in the final round of qualifying in March.