African Champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will not be in Equatorial Guinea next year to defend their title as the Bafana Bafana of South Africa guided by Coach Shakes Mashaba overran the Nigerian team playing a 2-2 draw at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium.
The South Africans who had already qualified going to the game were only playing for pride and would have lost nothing if the Eagles had taken their chances during the encounter. CSKA of Moscow player, Hammed Musa was the chief culprit as he ballooned three glaring chances that would have put the African champions in good stead to qualify for next year AFCON.
The Eagles put every foot wrong as the South Africans who had given the Nigerian side enough respect in the earlier part of the game came out smoking through their danger man; Tokelo Rantie in jersey number 17 became the chief tormentor of the Nigerian defence outrunning the likes of Kenneth Omeruo, Azubuike Egwueke and Efe Ambrose. Rantie effort paid off in the 42nd minute when he used his pace and power to penetrate the Nigerian defence before unleashing a shot that beat Nigeria goalkeeper and captain, Vincent Enyeama in goal.
Rantie was on song again in the 48th minute as he capitalized on defence error made by Omeruo to score the second goal for the 1996 AFCON champions. Nigeria however equalized through Hull City of England striker, Omatsone Aluko who scored brace. Aluko’s first goal came in the 67th minute after a rebound from Ikechukwu Uche and his second in the 90th through a blinder that beat the South Africa goalkeeper.
Though Nigeria avoided a defeat and still remains unbeaten against the South Africans in any competitive game, the result meant that the Eagles have lost out as the Congolese team tutored by veteran coach, Claude Le Roy defeated Sudan by a lone goal to finish as the first runner-up behind group winners, South who had 12 points from six games. The Congolese garnered 10 points from as many games while Nigeria got 8 points. all the hope that Nigeria would qualify as the best losing team evaporated as DR Congo and Egypt are on 9 points each as at the time of filing this report.
Expressing his disappointment after the match, the President General of the Nigeria Supporters’ Club, Chief Rafiu Ladipo said the Eagles were wasteful in front of goals and allowed the South Africans to take them to the cleaners. His words: “we had the opportunity to wrap up the game in the first half. In the second half too, we messed up. As a defending champion, we are not going to Equatorial Guinea.” He added that Keshi should be sent to go for refresher course to broaden his knowledge of the round leather game.
Former Nigerian international and Hansa Rostock of Germany striker, Jonathan Akpoborire said what Nigeria need now is a foreign coach from Europe that will take our game to the next level in the football world.