The race to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) comes to an end this weekend, with the battle for qualification slots in the 12 groups getting to an interesting climax.
The Super Eagles, after an inauspicious start when they lost 0-2 at home in Uyo to South Africa in 2017, are now looking to end the qualifiers on a high note.
The three-times champions have moved on from that disappointment however, and they are now Group E leaders with the qualification ticket in the bag.
On Friday, they are up against the Pirates of Sychelles at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba as from 4 p.m.
The group’s other fixture has the Mediterranean Knights of Libya against Bafana Bafana of South Africa at Sfax in Tunisia on Sunday.
Nigeria’s encounter against Seychelles is not more than an academic affair, and the Eagles may be seeking to maintain reputation and also use the game to kickstart preparations for the AFCON.
While Nigeria have already qualified, the big question in focus now is who will be joining them from the group.
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As South Africa and Libya try to figure that out, Seychelles are just meeting obligations by playing the final qualifying match.
Their campaign has seen them earn just a single point, scored only twice and concede 22 goals, the qualifiers’ worst record.
Nigeria, meanwhile, have conceded only five goals throughout their campaign to go along with an impressive 11 strikes.
Three of those goals came in the first half when both sides met in Victoria.
Ahmed Musa, Chidozie Awaziem and Odion Ighalo were all on the scoresheet on that day.
Ighalo in particular will see this as an opportunity to add to his haul of six goals in the qualifiers, the leading figure
He leads the goalcorers’ race by two goals going into the final round of matches.
Reports have it that the Changchun Yatai striker leads Red Star Belgrade’s forward El Fardou Ben Nabouhane and Knowledge Musonad of Anderlecht who both have four goals.
While the Super Eagles would be back at Africa’s showpiece for the 18th time in the history of the competition, they haven’t been quite able to confirm themselves as Group winners just yet.
Bafana Bafana of South Africa on the other hand are in a do-or-die situation.
The South Africans are second in the standings with nine points, just two ahead of the Mediterranean Knights of Libya.
They will be looking to avoid defeat as they need at least a draw to join Nigeria as the top two sides from the group.
Failure to qualify would naturally be considered a disaster for the South Africans, considering how they had started their campaign on a bright note.
Libya are on seven points with two wins, one draw and two losses, and they will aim for nothing but an outright win when they host the South Africans in Sfax.
Both sides played to a goalless draw the last time they met at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in September 2018.
Libya controlled the first half and the South Africans rallied in the second, but could not break the big physical, well-organised North Africans down.
The result threw the group’s second qualification spot open, thus setting the stage for a nervy and mouth-watering encounter which could swing either ways when it is all said and done.
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The draw for the biennial men’s football championship of Africa will take place on April 12, at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) headquarters in Cairo.
The 24 qualified teams from the 12 groups will be seeded into four pots based on the CAF National Team Rankings with the teams drawn into six groups of four teams.
The competition, which will be the 32nd edition, will be held from June 21 to July 19.
Group E Standings
Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Nigeria 5 3 1 1 11 5 +6 10
South Africa 5 2 3 0 9 1 +8 9
Libya 5 2 1 2 15 9 +6 7
Seychelles 5 – 1 4 2 22 -20 1