Nigeria’s quest to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroun was yesterday delayed till March next year following Super Eagles’ goalless draw with Sierra Leone in Freetown.
The Eagles would have joined Algeria and Senegal as the early teams to qualify for the Cameroun 2021 AFCON with a win at the Siaka Steven Stadium, but they now have to wait till March 22 when they travel to Cotonou to meet the Squirrels of Benin.
After the Benin game, the team will host Lesotho on March 30 in Nigeria. Nigeria, who surprisingly drew 4-4 with the Leone Stars in the first leg in Benin City, were expected to win in Freetown to confirm qualification for the AFCON, but it found an unyielding opponent in Sierra Leone.
The result leaves the Super Eagles top of the standings on eight points, with Benin (seven), Sierra Leone (three) and Lesotho (two).
The Eagles were the more adventurous side yesterday with Kelechi Iheanacho testing Sierra Leone goalkeeper, Mohamed Kamara, with a free kick as early as the third minute. Nigeria had another chance to make hay in the 16th minute, but Samuel Chukwueze curled his effort just off the mark.
The home team had their first chance midway through the first half when Alhaji Kamara tested Maduka Okoye’s reflexes, but the Holland-based goalkeeper held his own.
Soon after, midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo copped an injury and had to be replaced by Shehu Abdullahi. The first half ended goalless.
In the second half, Nigeria started from where they stopped in the first stanza, but once again they found it difficult to breach the home team’s defence.
However, what looked like the opener in the 60th minute by Iheanacho was disallowed for offside. Thereafter, the Leone Stars defended stoutly to earn another draw from their more renowned opponents.
Speaking at the end of the tie, Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr, said he was satisfied by the outcome, adding his team will now work harder to beat Benin Republic in their next game.
He said: “I wanted to win the two games against Sierra Leone to book the AFCON ticket, but it didn’t happen that way. “But I am satisfied with the team’s performance as the Eagles are in a vintage position to be at the AFCON.”