After missing out on the last two edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Super Eagles of Nigeria have now qualified for the 2019 showpiece set to take place in Cameroon after they played out a 1-1 draw against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in Johannesburg.
Having picked up the maximum points in their last three matches, the Super Eagles went into the game against the South Africans needing just a point to seal qualification to Africa’s biggest competition next year.
Gernot Rohr made some couple of changes to the team both tactically and in personal. The German coach opted to use a 3-5-2 formation, bringing in Kenneth Omeruo to join forces with Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong in the defense, while Ahmed Musa partnered Kelechi Iheanacho in the attack.
The move paid off, as the South African’s struggled to get into a rhythm in the opening minutes of the game, with the Nigerian team carving out some chances. The biggest of them came in the seventh minute when Iheanacho put Musa through on goal, but the Nigeria forward was flagged for offside seconds later.
After dominating the early proceedings, the Super Eagles opened the scoring in the tenth minute after Kalu, who was playing as a right winger sent in a powerful cross into the 18 yard which was put into net by Buhle Mkhwanazi.
The South Africans struggled to contain the pace of Ahmed Musa, as the Al- Naser forward threatened to double Nigeria’s lead after he was put through on goal by Alex Iwobi, but his shot was well saved by Itumeleng Khune.
It didn’t take much long for the South Africans to get the equalizer, as Percy Tau meandered his way past three Nigerian defenders, laying up the ball for Lebo Mothiba to slot home into the net.
Going into the second half, Nigeria seemed contented with trying to hit the South African’s on the break, as they knew they were in the driving seat.
With little opportunity falling to both sides throughout the second forty-five, it seemed Nigeria had snatched the winner late on when Musa put the ball past Khune, but like in the first half, the forward was wrongly flagged for being in an offside position.
The draw put Nigeria top of the group with ten points going into the last round of matches, while the South Africans remain second with nine. The Libyans, who earlier in the day pummeled Seychelles 8-1 are third with seven points.