2019 AFCON qualifiers: Leaders South Africa, Nigeria set to dominate Group E

Author: Rosalind K. Amoh
Odion Igalo scored a hat-trick in Nigeria's 4-0 thumping of Libya

Nigeria and South Africa look set to consolidate their positions in Group E as they take their turn in Match Day 4 of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers on Tuesday.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are currently second, while South Africa's Bafana Bafana lead the group after both made great strides with their emphatic wins against Libya and Seychelles respectively, and they are hoping to continue from where they left off on Saturday, when they honoured the Match Day Three fixtures.

Nigeria, who defeated Libya, who played without their head coach by 4-0 at home in Uyo on Saturday, now head for Sfax, Libya's adopted home, while South Africa also travel to face Seychelles in the return leg.

Odion Ighalo scored a hat-trick and Samuel Kalu put the icing on the cake.

Libya's coach, Adel Amrouche,  resigned from his position, four days before the game against Nigeria, and was quickly replaced by Omar Al Marmi.

The three-times African champions, Nigeria, have recovered well from their stuttering start with a loss to South Africa in the opening game, to win two games in a row which has seen them move to second place behind leaders, South Africa, who are yet to lose a game.

The Nigerians seem to have rediscovered their confidence and composure despite their early exit from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and German coach, Gernot Rohr believes they can build on what they have achieved so far, to seal a place to the expanded team tournament slated for Cameroun.

Speaking of his expectations of the reverse fixture, Rohr said there was still room for improvement in his team, especially in the defence, adding that such problems would be addressed before Tuesday’s match. The scoreline does not mean that we have reached the level we want.

“We had obvious problems defensively, especially in the first half and before we play Libya again in three days, we must improve on our weak areas.“Sometimes you get away with mistakes and another time you can easily be punished, it could make a difference whether you can qualify or not.

Rohr will be counting on the goalscoring instinct of Ighalo who was influential in their big win on Saturday for a repeat, but the 1980, 1994 and 2013 champions will travel without  defender, Shehu Abdullahi, who has been ruled out of the game due to injury.

 Seychelles v South Africa

Having assumed the lead with their comfortable 6-0 home win, their biggest win ever in qualifying campaigns, South Africa's Bafana Bafana look forward to a similar performance and result when they travel to Victoria for the return leg on Tuesday.

The 2019 qualifying campaign has so far been good for the South Africans who missed out on the 2017 tournament and are keen to return to the prestigious tournament in style.

They began with a win against Nigeria, but were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Libya, but on Saturday, they were let loose and took their chances against the unfancied Seychelles.

Bafana Bafana benefited fron an own goal from Nigel Hoareau (23rd) as well as goals from Thulani Hlatshwayo (25th), Lebo Mothiba(27th), Percy Tau (74th),Dino Ndlovu (81st) and Teboho Mokoena (90th).

With their seven points keeping them on top, South Africa, the 1996 champions know Nigeria are breathing heavily down their necks and will be eager to have some breather by keeping their winning ways against Seychelles.

Should they win, Bafana will have 10 points, good enough to send them to Cameroun before the final two games are honoured in November and March 2019, with tricky away games against Nigeria and Libya.

Group E standings
Team                   P    W    D    L    GF    GA    GD    PTS
South Africa         3     2      1    0     8      0      8       7
Nigeria                 3     2      0    1     7      2      5       6
Libya                   3     1      1    1     5      5      0       4
Seychelles           3      0      0    3     1    14   -13       0