Eagles W’Cup qualification in danger after Bafana stalemate

By Daily Sports Nigeria on June 8, 2024

The Super Eagles were on Friday held 1-1 by bitter rivals South Africa in the third round of qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup qat the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru’s first Nigerian goal in the 46th minute would earn the Eagles a draw after going behind to Bafana Bafana in the 31st minute through Themba Zwane.

The result means the Eagles are winless in three games and are now fifth in Group C with three points and with seven matches left to play.

Nigeria made a promising start but Ademola Lookman sent the ball over the bar in the eighth minute.

South Africa responded through a long ball in the 10th minute but goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali confidently recovered the ball to thwart danger.

Bafana Bafana piled on the pressure  again in the 16th minute but Bright Osayi-Samuel sacrificed himself, pulling an dangerous forward Percy Tau back and sending him to the ground, which earned him a yellow card.

Tau then sent the resultant free-kick crashing at the Nigerian bar, to the relief of the home fans at the packed Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.

Bafana kept on pressing and were rewarded in the 31st minute when Themba Zwane made his way into the Nigerian box from the left and danced around three defenders before sending a shot into the right corner to make it 1-0 to the visitors and silence the stunned home fans at the stadium.

Bafana almost added a second goal five minutes later when Tau chipped Nwabali but Tanzania-based defender Benjamin Tanimu headed the striker’s goal-bound effort for a corner.

There was more danger ahead as Zwane could also have doubled his lead but he sends his shot into the side netting when it looked easier to score.

The Nigerians also had some moments of their own, big defender Semi Ajayi sending rasping drive from outside wide in the 40th minute, before Ademola Lookman’s inch-perfect delivery to striker Paul Onuachu was sent straight into the waiting palms of Ronwen Williams, in goal for the South Africans, a minute later.

Bafana went into the break with the slim advantage as a minute silence was held for late Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi, who died on June 7, 2018.

Whatever new coach Finidi George told his players at half-time worked wonders as impressive midfielder Fisayo Dele-Bashiru grabbed the equaliser just seconds after the restart off an Alex Iwobi assist to send fans in Uyo in rapturous celebrations.

The new Nigeria No.10 turned in one stride after being set up, then jinked to the right before sending the ball to the left corner of the net, completely wrong-footing keeper Williams.

Dele-Bashiru was set to make Bafana sweat again as he made a run into the box but he got clipped from behind and dispossessed by a Bafana defender.

Play went on with the Nigerian midfielder down as the referee turned a deaf ear to the Uyo crowd’s appeals for a penalty.

Both sides had chances to increase their tally but the game was destined to end in a stalemate.

In the 76th, Alhassan Yusuf, who replaced the injured Dele-Bashiru in the 61st minute, released Samuel Chukwueze within eight yards off goal but the AC Milan winger’s effort hit the centre of the post.

Nigeria made a double change in the 79th minute as Ajayi made way for Raphael Onyedika and Onuachu for Terem Moffi but that didn’t yield the desired result for Finidi’s side.

With five minutes added time to play, Eagles desperately searched for a winner and forced the impressive Williams to an acrobatic save off a Lookman curled effort in the 91st minute. The alert goalie was called to action again seconds later,

clearing off a goal-bound Moffi.

In the 93rd minute Iwobi sent his shot into the stands, while Chukwueze also sent his shot wide before the final whistle in Uyo.

The Eagles will now travel to Abidjan to face third-placed Benin on Monday.

The group winners automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and United States while the four best-ranked runners-up go into play-offs and winners enter an inter-continental tournament where six nations will compete for two places.






Source Punch Ng

Posted June 8, 2024


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