After missing out on back-to-back editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles have booked their place at Cameroon 2019 despite playing a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana on Saturday at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
The qualification for the Eagles is coming early despite one more game to play in the qualifying series against Seychelles in March.
The Super Eagles since winning the 2013 edition of the AFCON failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions.
After five games, they now have 10 points, with one game more to be played.
Having been beaten 2-0 in the reverse game played in Uyo, the Eagles came for revenge in Johannesburg and they started quite badly.
The could have gotten the lead early on when stand-in skipper Ahmed Musa interchanged passes with Kelechi Iheanacho before releasing a curler which was brilliantly taken by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the sixth minute of play.
The opening goal for Nigeria came through an own goal from Buhle Mkhwanazi. The defender deflected Samuel Kalu’s cross past his own goalkeeper.
Percy Tau should have equalised for Bafana Bafana almost immediately but his fine move was punctured by Kalu.
It did not take too long for the equalizer to come for the South Africans as they were back on level terms in the 26th minute as Man-of-the-match, Tau, sliced through the Eagles’ defence before unselfishly setting up Lebo Mothiba who tucked home to an open net.
As in the first half, the second stanza got off to a rather slow start. There were few chances for either side in the opening 10 minutes.
There was a bright chance for Nigeria later in the game but it was Omeruo who squandered as the centre-back headed wide from close range.
Musa got the ball in the back of the net following a defence-splitting pass from Iwobi, but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside in the 84th minute which television replays suggest it was a faulty call.
While Nigeria was denied the win they wanted, they would be glad to have achieved the primary assignment of qualifying for the 2019 AFCON with one game to spare.
Either Libya or South Africa will join Nigeria from Group E depending on how their game goes in March.