AFCON: Resurgent Nigeria will be key absentee in Gabon
Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP |
Nigeria boast one of the strongest current national teams in Africa, but will not be among the 16 countries challenging for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations title from Saturday.
The ‘Super Eagles’ were much less formidable early last year and taking only one point of a possible six against Egypt condemned them to second place in a qualifying group.
Ordinarily, Nigeria could have squeezed through as one of the best two runners-up, but the withdrawal of Chad reduced the section to three sides and that option fell away.
It was the third time in the past four Cup of Nations qualifying campaigns that the three-time African champions failed to make the finals.
Officials reacted to the Cup of Nations debacle under local coaches Sunday Oliseh and Samson Siasia by hiring German Gernot Rohr.
The transformation was dramatic as Nigeria won away to Zambia and at home to Algeria to open a four-point lead in a 2018 World Cup qualifying group that also includes Cameroon.
AFP Sport selects five notable absentees from the 2017 Cup of Nations, which kicks off on January 14 in Libreville with a match between Gabon and debutants Guinea-Bissau.
The tiny multi-island state of 500,000 people needed a home win over modest Libya to complete a hat-trick of successful qualifying campaigns, but they conceded a last-minute goal to lose 1-0 after a game that was temporarily halted when a dog wandered on to the pitch.
The 2015 quarter-finalists defeated group winners Guinea-Bissau twice, but three draws against Zambia and Kenya and a shock loss in Nairobi saw the ‘Red Devils’ finish second with insufficient points to claim one of two places reserved for the best runners-up.
Conceded a stoppage-time goal to be held 1-1 at home by Egypt after dominating the match, then lost the return match 1-0 a few days later to seal their fate in a showdown between countries boasting 10 Cup of Nations titles between them.
A disastrous start in which they were held at home by the Gambia and lost in Mauritania left over-confident Bafana Bafana (The Boys) five points adrift of Cameroon after only two rounds and they finished a humiliating third in the table with just one win in six outings.
The steady decline of the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) after sensationally winning the 2012 Cup of Nations in Gabon continued as they triumphed only once in six games and came third behind shock group winners Guinea-Bissau and Congo Brazzaville.
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