Reigning champions the Super Eagles will not defend their title in Equatorial Guinea after failing to qualify from Group A.
In yesterday’s final round of matches, Nigeria drew 2-2 with South Africa in Uyo, meaning they finished outside of the group’s top two automatic qualification spots with eight points – a total that also put them out of the running to be the best third-placed team.
Their display left much to be desired Ahmed Musa by now should be kicking his head for missing two clear cut chances, he should have buried to put the Eagles ahead in the match. South Africa can thank fleet footed striker Tekelo Rantie for scoring a brace that almost earned the Bafana Bafana their first competitive win over Nigeria.
At the start of hostilities, the Bafana Bafana showed that they meant business as they held on to the ball and made dangerous incursions to the Eagles’ box. Rantie proved that he was going to be a handful early in the game as he cranked up the Eagles defence. Kenneth Omeruo was clearly off form and out of depth. Rantie rounded Omeruo, but his shot was deflected over the bar by Azubuike Egweke.
However, the Eagles gathered the pieces and pushed forward with John Obi Mikel calling the shots. Ikechukwu Uche and Emmanuel Emenike probed the South African back four. Ahmed Musa also proved dangerous.
On the 16 minute of play Musa was put through by Mikel, but he failed to beat Dareen Keet in goal for Bafana Bafana. Two minutes later Musa came one on one with Keet, but shot into the legs of the keeper.
It seems these failed attempts emboldened the South Africans. They took over proceedings by tightening up the midfield and preventing the Eagles strikers from getting feeds. The unthinkable happened in the 42nd minute when Rantie made a run from the left, Efe Ambrose failed to cut his run and when the Bafana Bafana striker came face to face with Vincent Enyeama, he wasted no time in tucking the ball home. The Eagles were shell-shocked.
On the break the South Africans were unrelenting in their attacks. Rantie popped up again and stole the ball from indecisive Omeruo, he raced into the box rounded Enyeama and scored his second.
On the 68th minute, Sone Aluko provided a plank for the Eagles to make a come back when he jabbed home a re-bound from an Uche strike that hit the post.
But the Eagles laboured on despite having a man advantage after Reneilwe was sent off for a second bookable offense on Juwon Oshaniwo. The South Africans held on, but the resistant, however, was wearing thin. Aluko scored his second of the night when he wrestled the ball from the South African defence. He raced into the box and shot pass Keet. But it was of no use as Congo beat Sudan 0-1 at home to clinch the second spot.