Nigeria, yesterday, booked a place in the finals of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which will take place in Cameroun. The country secured the spot after the Bafana Bafana of South Africa forced the Super Eagles to a 1-1 draw in a Group E encounter, played at the First National Bank Stadium (FNB) Stadium, Johannesburg.
The Eagles had taken the lead in the 9th minute when a cross from Samuel Kalu directed at Ahmed Musa, was deflected into the South African net team by defender, Buhle Mkhwanazi.
The goal brightened the three-time AFCON’s champions chances of qualifying for the AFCON before the final qualifier, after missing out of the last two editions. The Eagles thereafter dominated possession for several minutes and kept the South Africans at bay.
Bafana Bafana had the opportunity to equalise in the 18th minute, but bluntly failed to make that happen.
Then came joy for the South Africans in the 26th minute when their man of the match, Percy Tau, dribbled past Nigeria’s defence before passing the ball to a teammate, who coolly beat an onrushing Eagles’ goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa for the equaliser.
Kenneth Omeruo had a golden opportunity to put the Eagles in the lead in the 73rd minute, but his header slightly missed the target from a resultant corner kick.
Even Musa’s goal in the 82nd minute that put the Nigerians fans at the stadium in ecstatic mood was later ruled to be offside.
Coach Gernot Rohr in his remarks after the match said it was important that the players were mindful of the game, as a draw also served as a victory hence qualifying for the AFCON.
“We play to win all the time…we have won other matches before now and that is why we wanted to win this also, but we also didn’t want to take any risk because we knew that a draw is just like a victory to us.”
While expressing his disappointment over the outcome of the match, Coach Stuart Baxter, said he was a little bit proud of his players’ efforts after all.
“I am disappointed today, but I am proud a little bit. We took four points out of the Super Eagles and the only goal we conceded in this tournament was an own goal. I am disappointed that we were not brave…that is a sign of nerves,” he stated.