AFCON QUALIFIERS: NIGERIA SEEK REVENGE, 2019 TICKET

AFCON QUALIFIERS: NIGERIA SEEK REVENGE, 2019 TICKET

BY APESIN ADEMOLA.

 

The first of two matches pitching Nigeria and South Africa against themselves take place this weekend with arguably the more important happening on Saturday at the FNB Stadium (well known as Soccer City) in Johannesburg.

 

Nigeria’s senior male team, the Super Eagles square up against Bafana Bafana in the penultimate group qualifier for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, while their female counterparts, the Super Falcons begin their title chase against Banyana Banyana on Sunday in the African Women’s Championship in Ghana.

 

Back to the present, the Group E 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Johannesburg is a grudge match for the Super Eagles after disappointing their fans in Uyo by losing 0-2 in the first leg. The South Africans were all over themselves having never beaten their more illustrious counterparts in a competitive game before then. The Super Eagles have vowed to make South African fans walk home dejected the way the crowd in Uyo did on June 10, last year.

 

South Africa needs this match more than their guests, who will join five other teams, including hosts Cameroon, to qualify for the 2019 finals if they secure just a point. Should the Bafana Bafana lose this fixture and Libya overcome the group’s weakest team Seychelles, they will have to battle hard to avoid defeat in their final group match away to Libya. But defeat for Libya in Seychelles will mean both Nigeria and South Africa will be in Cameroon 2019 irrespective of the result in Johannesburg.

 

Both sides have selection concerns following injuries to some key players. For Nigeria, these include No 1 keeper Francis Uzoho, Wilfred Ndidi, long-time absentee John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo, whose three goals in the last two matches helped the team to produce positive results.

 

For Bafana Bafana, they will miss Kamohelo Mokotjo, Dean Furman, Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Bradley Grobler.

 

After three straight defeats and heavy goal deficits, Seychelles managed to pick a point in their last qualifying match when they played goalless at home against South Africa.

 

They host the Libyans, whose Cameroon 2019 aspiration was dealt a big blow by back-to-back defeats by the Super Eagles. The homeless Libyans require maximum points to stay in contention, that if South Africa fails to achieve double victory over Nigeria. A draw in Victoria will still give the North Africans a chance in their last group fixture, if Nigeria win in Johannesburg.

 

The Ugandans require to avoid defeat to visiting Cape Verde Islands to confirm their Cameroon 2019 ticket. Leading Group L, the Cranes have established a five-point cushion over Tanzania and an additional one point over this afternoon’s opponents.

 

Uganda are in fine form after winning all but one of their group matches; the odd one being the goalless result versus Tanzania on Matchday 2.

 

In Group B where only one spot is available as Cameroon feature here, Malawi will do themselves a world of good if they beat Comoros Islands, who are already eliminated.

 

That will bring the Flames three points behind group leaders Morocco, who they host in their last group match next March.

 

Morocco will however not need that match if Malawi get beaten by Comoros Islands as the Atlas Lions will have qualified for Cameroon 2019 by that result in Moroni, the capital city of Comoros Islands.

 

Namibia share the spotlight with Guinea-Bissau in Group K with both teams clashing to shape things up here.

 

Mozambique and Zambia, who go head-to-head tomorrow in Maputo, will be waiting in the wings to catch up with the losing side in this Saturday’s group match as they are both three points adrift of Namibia and Guinea-Bissau.

 

Senegal, having already qualified for the finals along with Madagascar, may take things easy against Equatorial Guinea, who are out of the race together with Sudan in Group A.

 

Gabon welcomes second placed Mali to Libreville’s Stade d’Angondjé striving to win to snatch leadership of Group C from Burundi, who beat South Sudan away on Friday.

 

Gabon sits at No 3 but are only a point short of Mali.

 

This group will be decided on the last Matchday between Burundi, Mali and Gabon as South Sudan have crashed out.

 

In Group D, Benin Republic seeks a double over hosts Gambia, who are at the foot of the table. If the Squirrels succeed in the Gambian mission, they will go above the Algerians, who are away to Togo on Sunday.

 

All the teams in this group remain in the chase for two tickets to Cameroon 2019.

 

Saturday’s fixtures…

Group A: Equatorial Guinea v Senegal (first leg Senegal 3-0) (4pm)

Group B: Comoros Islands v Malawi (first leg Malawi 1-0) (1pm)

Group C: Gabon v Mali (first leg Mali 2-1) (4pm)

Group D: Gambia v Benin Republic (first leg Benin Republic 1-0) (5:30pm)

Group E: Seychelles v Libya (first leg Libya 5-1) (1:30pm), South Africa v Nigeria (first leg South Africa 2-0) (2pm)

Group K: Namibia v Guinea-Bissau (first leg Guinea-Bissau 1-0) (3pm)

Group L: Uganda v Cape Verde Islands (first leg Uganda 1-0) (2pm)

 

Sunday’s fixtures…

Group A: Madagascar v Sudan (first leg Madagascar 3-1) (12:30pm)

Group D: Togo v Algeria (first leg Algeria 1-0) (5pm)

Group F: Ethiopia v Ghana (first leg Ghana 5-0), Kenya v Sierra Leone (first leg Sierra Leone 2-1) (both 2pm)

Group G: Congo Republic v DR Congo (first leg DR Congo 3-1) (3:30pm), Liberia v Zimbabwe (first leg Zimbabwe 3-0) (5pm)

Group H: Rwanda v Central Africa Republic (first leg Central Africa Republic 2-1) (2:30pm), Guinea v Côte d’Ivoire (first leg Guinea 3-2) (6pm)

Group I: Angola v Burkina Faso (first leg Burkina Faso 3-1) (4pm), Mauritania v Botswana (first leg Mauritania 1-0) (6pm)

Group J: eSwatini v Niger Republic (first leg 0-0) (2:30pm)

Group K: Mozambique v Zambia (first leg Mozambique 1-0) (2:30pm)

Group L: Lesotho v Tanzania (first leg 1-1) (3pm)

 

Finalists so far…

Cameroon (hosts); Madagascar, Senegal (both Group A); Tunisia, Egypt (both Group J)

 

Possible qualifiers this Saturday…

Nigeria, South Africa (both Group E); Morocco (Group B); Uganda (Group L)

 

Eliminated…

Equatorial Guinea, Sudan (both Group A); Comoros Islands (Group B), South Sudan (Group C), Seychelles (Group E), eSwatini, Niger Republic (both Group J)

 

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