Date: September 6, 2014
Venue: UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, Nigeria
Time: 17:00 hours BST
The Super Eagles, although they are one of the favorites to qualify, face a tricky task in Group A. The likes of Congo, Sudan, and South Africa, should prove to be a decent challenge for Nigeria. They will likely qualify, but this group will give them a challenge and help them better prepare for the tournament next January. Their first match is against Congo on Friday.
At first glance, it looks like Nigeria have poor recent form. But that just isn’t the case, as they were one of the bright spots for African football at the World Cup. Their most recent losses were against Argentina and then France. They were outstanding against Argentina, and were unlucky not to take France into extra time in the round of 16. Playing in a World Cup and advancing out of the group will definitely give Nigeria an advantage over their visitors.
Congo defeated Namibai 3-1 on aggregate to advance to the next round of African Cup of Nations Qualifying. There, they defeated Rwanda 2-0, before losing the return leg by the same score. As a result, a penalty shootout occurred- Rwanda won, but Congo became a benefactor of Rwanda fielding an ineligible player. So, Congo may be happy just to have gotten this far, and if they failed to get past Rwanda, it remains to be seen how they fair against Nigeria.
Nigeria: Austin Ejide
With Vincent Enyeama pulling out of the squad due to a serious family problem, Ejide will take his place between the sticks. The Super Eagles should be able to fly past Congo, but their defense- which is often a problem- must be able to keep a clean sheet.
Congo: Christopher Samba
Once tipped for big things, Samba is now plying his trade with Russian side Dynamo Moscow. The captain and most well known player of Congo, he will have to lead his defense well if Congo hopes to stop the likes of Victor Moses and Peter Odemwingie.
You never know what can happen in AFCON qualifying, but Nigeria’s experience and overall quality should be enough to get them a result. With Congo only making a last-minute entry into the tournament as a replacement, Nigeria start favourite to win this. BetVictor are offering odds of 1.98 on NIgeria to win at Halftime and Full time which looks like great value. Other bookies are offering 1.73 and sporting bet as low as 1.6!
Half Time/Full Time – Nigeria/Nigeria 1.98 (BetVictor)