Nigeria’s hope of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Gabon ended yesterday evening after the Super Eagles lost 1-0 to Egypt at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
This crash marks Nigeria’s back-to-back absence from the continent’s football showpiece after similarly failing to qualify for the 2015 edition. Stephen Keshi failed to qualify Nigeria to defend the trophy Nigeria won at South Africa 2013. Samson Siasia who stepped in to clean the mess left behind by Sunday Oliseh, also failed when it mattered most against the Egyptians.
Eagles’ last game at home to Tanzania is now mere formality with Egypt comfortably in the driver’s seat of Group G on seven points. Nigeria has a miserable two points from the draw against Tanzania and Egypt in Kaduna last Friday. Tanzania is at the bottom of the log on a single point.
The East Africans still have the faint chance of upstaging the Pharaohs if they succeed in defeating Egypt and Nigeria.
Youthful Radwan Sobhi got the winning goal for the Pharaohs in the 66th minute when he toed a loose ball during a goal mouth melee. The kick was deflected beyond the reach of Daniel Akpeyi by defender Shehu Abdullahi.
Before that goal, the John Mikel Obi led team had put up a decent fight in the first 45 minutes, ending the half on a barren note.
After the return from break, Eagles appeared lost and could not reenact the fighting spirit witnessed in the first half. They lost the confidence that made them dictate the tempo of the game for a better part of the first stanza, though they never really threaten goalkeeper Ahmed Shennawi.
Egypt created two early openings – Hegazy headed narrowly past the Nigeria goal after five minutes and almost immediately skipper Al-Said fired with a left foot from inside the box.
Skipper Abdallah Al-Said then delivered a low cross from the left in the 29th minute, but Salah was not close to make contact.
In the seventh minute, Umar Aminu dashed into the Egyptian goal area, but his shot was firmly held by the goalkeeper.
Odion Ighalo had a half chance when he controlled the ball inside the box, but he shot wide in the 15th minute.