•Qualify despite losing 2-0 •Keshi sets another record
Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles yesterday in Abidjan qualified for their first ever CAF African Nations Championship when they survived a first half stampede by the Elephants of Cote d’ Ivoire.
It was no doubt a cliff hanger ordeal for the Coach Stephen Keshi-tutored team and when the referee sounded the last blast of the the whistle it was like huge relief for a team who went down in the first-half with two goals from Kevin Zougoula.
The loss notwithstanding, the Eagles sailed through on a 403 aggregate, having won the first leg 4-1 in Kaduna a little over a fortnight. This makes Keshi the first coach to qualify Nigeria for this competition created for African players plying their football trade on the continent.
Cote d’Ivoire kept up the pressure as the Eagles sat back to look for counter attack opportunity, which barely came. The Ivorians were in firm control of the game.
At the break Keshi made changes that shored up his team and they were able to contain the forays of the Ivorian who desperately looked for a third goal to thwart Nigeria’s ambition to play in the tournament billed for South Africa in February 2014.
Nigeria Football Federation, NFF officials, who at one point said Nigeria had decided not to take part in the qualifiers because of a lack of money, will now be happy that they later reversed that decision.
Other countries that have qualified for the CHAN tournament include Ethiopia who were group opponents to the Super Eagles at the last Nations Cup. They beat Rwanda on penalties after the both legs ended in a 1-1 aggregate score.
Uganda also qualified for the finals with a 3-1 win in Kampala over over Tanzania on Saturday.
It completed a 4-1 aggregate victory for coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s side in the tournament for locally-based players. Other nations who have also qualified are Mauritania, Morocco, Angola, Ghana, Libya, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.