The Super Eagles
By Tunde Sulaiman, with agency reports
Fortune smiled the way of the Super Eagles when they were paired against the Lone Star of Liberia when the draw for the final round of qualifying for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa was made in Johannesburg, Thursday evening.
In the run up to the draw, most Nigerian football officials including coach, Stephen Keshi, had pleaded that the Eagles get a favourable opponent.
Their wishes were clearly answered considering that this year’s beaten Nations Cup finalists, Cote d’Ivoire face a tricky qualification game against Senegal in the toughest draw of the final qualifying round. This means one of the two West African giants will not be in South Africa.
Some other intriguing match ups the draw threw up include champions Zambia facing Uganda and while Libya meeting North African rivals Algeria.
The ties will be played out over two legs between September 7-9 and October 12-14.
The Teranga Lions' draw represents the toughest possible start for new Senegal coach, Joseph Koto, who has just been appointed to the role.
Ghana's Black Stars have been drawn against Malawi.
Seven-time African champions Egypt were absent from the draw after being eliminated by Central African Republic.
CAR, who became the 30th team to make the final round of qualifying, when they triumphed over the Pharaohs 4-3 on aggregate last Saturday, will face Burkina Faso.
South Africa qualifies for the 2013 tournament as hosts.
Before leaving for Johannesburg Tuesday to attend the draw along side, NFF Technical Committee Chairman, Christopher Green, Eagles boss, Stephen Keshi, had said while he is not afraid of any team in the draws he was hoping for a favourable draw.
“No team is too small or too big in Africa and world football, but we must avoid some big names but if at the end of the day we are drawn against any of the powerhouses we will have no option but to ensure that we qualify. We want a good draw for the team in the interest of the nation,” he said, clearly aware that the Eagles cannot afford to miss the final for a second consecutive edition after missing out of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea 2012.
However, while Liberia looks an easy foe on paper, fans will remember that the Lone Star almost cost the Eagles the ticket to Korea/Japan 2002 when they surprisingly won the home leg of the clash for the World Cup finals, which took place in the Asian nations.
The tournament proper kicks off in January next year.
The full list of fixtures:
Mali v Botswana
Zimbabwe v Angola
Ghana v Malawi
Liberia v Nigeria
Zambia v Uganda
Cape Verde Islands v Cameroon
Mozambique v Morocco
Sierra Leone v Tunisia
Guinea v Niger
Sudan v Ethiopia
Libya v Algeria
Cote d’Ivoire v Senegal
DR Congo v Equatorial Guinea
Gabon v Togo
Central African Republic v Burkina Faso