Sports Mole previews Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Group E leaders Nigeria and bottom-placed Seychelles at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
The hosts currently sit one point clear at the top of Group E going into the final round of fixtures and have already secured their place in the tournament regardless of what happens in Asaba.
It is hard to believe that Nigeria have not featured in the Africa Cup of Nations since being crowned champions of their continent for a third time in 2013.
Missing out in 2012 appeared at the time to be a blip, having finished at least third in five of the six previous tournaments, and they roared back from that disappointment to lift the trophy in South Africa one year later.
However, the Super Eagles have been notable absentees for the past two editions and will no doubt be looking to make up for lost time when this summer’s tournament gets underway in Egypt.
A 1-1 draw with South Africa in November was enough to secure Nigeria’s spot with a game to spare, guaranteeing at least a top-two finish while the South Africans battle with Libya in the final round of fixtures.
Manager Gernot Rohr will still be looking for his side to secure top spot against the group’s bottom team, though, as they look to maintain their unbeaten record since last summer’s World Cup.
Nigeria crashed out in the group stages of that competition following a late defeat to Argentina, but have since won three and drawn two of their five outings across all competitions.
However, their past two matches have ended in draws – including a goalless stalemate with Uganda last time out – and a repeat of that scoreline on Friday may not be enough to guarantee them top spot.
A friendly with AFCON hosts Egypt will follow after Friday’s match, but this will be Nigeria’s final competitive fixture before this summer’s tournament gets underway.
It will be a welcome return for one of the continent’s great footballing nations too, having curiously played at two World Cups since last reaching the Africa Cup of Nations proper.
Recent form: LWWWDD
Ranked 189th in the world, Seychelles have unsurprisingly offered little sign of ending their wait for a first major international tournament during the qualifying campaign.
A point at home to South Africa in October was a notable achievement for the minnows, but otherwise it has been another miserable qualifying campaign which has seen them ship 22 goals and score just two in four defeats.
The most chastening of those came in their most recent outing too, as they were hammered 8-1 at home by Libya, a little over a month after also being beaten 6-0 by South Africa.
To have only conceded three goals in their first game against Nigeria is something of a positive, then, and at the very least manager Gavin Jeanne will be trying to ensure that his side are not on the end of another hiding on Friday night.
Seychelles have by far the worst defensive record in qualifying, though, while only two teams have scored more goals than Nigeria – one of whom is Libya following their eight-goal haul.
Things look bleak for the Pirates, then, and it would take an almighty shock for them to end what is now a 20-match winless run away to the three-time African champions.
Seychelles are closing in on three years since their last win of any kind – against Lesotho in March 2016 – losing 15 and drawing five of their outings since then.
That record is even worse when looking at away form, with Seychelles having not won on the road since beating Eswatini – formerly Swaziland – in January 2012. Of their 21 away games since that result, they have lost 19 and drawn two.
Recent form: DLLLDL
Head To Head
We say: Nigeria 6-0 Seychelles
It is hard to look past a resounding Nigeria win in this match. Seychelles have been soundly beaten by both South Africa and Libya in recent games and Nigeria sit above both of those teams in the group, boasting Premier League players such as Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Leon Balogun.
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Publish date : 2019-03-20 16:22:18