By Nurudeen Obalola:
Super Eagles’ 0-0 draw with Tanzania on Saturday and Egypt’s 5-1 win over Chad on Sunday combined to leave Nigeria’s hopes of qualifying automatically for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations dented.
The two results mean Egypt top Group G with six points, while Nigeria have four, both teams having played two matches each.
But with four more matchdays to go, the 2013 African champions have plenty of opportunity to make amends and reach the competition they missed last year.
The Nations Cup is a 16-team tournament with only hosts Gabon guaranteed a spot. There are 13 qualifying groups, with each group winner and the two best second-placed teams qualifying for the tournament.
As things stand, the Super Eagles can still qualify either as group winners or with enough points to finish as one of the best two runners-up.
However, to finish ahead of Egypt, Nigeria have to get at least four points from the back-to-back fixtures against the North Africans in March and then win their other two matches, at home to Tanzania and away to Chad.
In this scenario, even if Egypt win their other games against Chad and Tanzania too, Egypt would finish with 13 points, while Nigeria would have 14.
If getting four points from the Egypt games is beyond the Super Eagles given their form, they could get second place and sneak in through the back door.
To make this happen, the Eagles would still need to beat Egypt in at least one of the two March meetings and then defeat Chad and Tanzania.
In this scenario, the Eagles (assuming they lose the other match to Egypt in March) would finish with 13 points to Egypt’s 15 (assuming the Pharaohs beat Chad and Tanzania again) and Nigeria would almost definitely finish as one of the two best runners-up.
Fortunately for the Eagles, only groups with four teams are considered for the ranking for best runners-up, meaning Group I with 2017 hosts Gabon is not considered. Also any group where one team has withdrawn will not be considered for the ranking.
As it stands after two matchdays, Morocco lead the table for best runners-up with six points, while Nigeria are second with four points and a plus 2 goals difference followed by a raft of teams also on four points but with inferior goals difference.
At present, Nigeria are on course for Gabon 2017 as the second best second-placed team in the qualifying groups.
It is still a long qualifying campaign though.
TABLE OF GROUP RUNNERS-UP
Pos Grp Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 F Morocco 2 2 0 0 4 0 +4 6
2 G Nigeria 2 1 1 0 2 0 +2 4
3 J Ethiopia 2 1 1 0 3 2 +1 4
4 L Zimbabwe 2 1 1 0 3 2 +1 4
5 E Zambia 2 1 1 0 2 1 +1 4
6 M Mauritania 2 1 0 1 3 2 +1 3
7 K Burundi 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3
8 A Liberia 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3
9 H Rwanda 2 1 0 1 1 1 0 3
10 C South Sudan 2 1 0 1 1 2 −1 3
11 D Botswana 2 1 0 1 1 2 −1 3
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