By Chamu Wilson
It was a case of the proverbial mixed fortunes for Southern African teams taking part in the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier openers over the weekend with the highlights being South Africa’s maiden win over Nigeria in a competitive encounter in Uyo, Nigeria on Saturday.
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi also came out victors in their opening encounters while Lesotho and Swaziland shared the spoils with their respective opponents.
However, former African champions, Zambia, found themselves on the losing end as was the case with Namibia, Madagascar and Angola.
Baxter haunts Nigeria
New Bafana Bafana mentor, Stuart Baxter led his troops into the lion’s den in Uyo seeking a victory over Nigeria for the first time since SA was readmitted into the international sporting fraternity. Ironically, the only time that Bafana tasted victory over the Super Eagles was under the same coach in a friendly encounter.
With the bookmakers understandably fancying Nigeria over SA, Baxter and his charges chose the perfect opportunity to prove that they are still a force to reckon with on the African football scene. Goals from Tokelo Rantie and fast-rising star, Percy Tau, were enough to silence the vociferous home crowd and record a famous victory for the Southern African nation.
Smiling Assassin leads from the front
In Harare, new Zimbabwe captain, Knowledge “Smiling Assassin” Musona led his team to a comfortable 3-0 win over Liberia on Sunday. Musona was smiling from the front as he bagged only Zimbabwe’s third hat-trick in a competitive match. The other two hat-tricks were scored by former Coventry City tearaway striker, Peter Ndlovu, and former Dynamos striker, Vitalis Takawira.
Musona broke the deadlock in the 24th minute before doubling the tally five minutes after the resumption of the second half. The former Kaizer Chiefs’ star, now based in Belgium, completed his treble in the 63rd minute.
The victory saw Zim Warriors take control of Group G on goal difference following DRC’s 3-1 win over Congo (Brazzaville).
Mozambique in giant slaying act
Another big victory was Mozambique’s shock 1-0 victory over a more fancied Zambian side on Saturday in Zambia. Chipolopolo, former winners of the continental soccer showpiece, fielded a familiar side led by largely the same faces who have failed to replicate the exploits of the Kalusha Bwalya-led outfit which overcame the loss of an almost entire team in the Gabon disaster to win the 2012 tournament.
Lesotho, Swaziland in draws
Southern African football lightweights, Lesotho and Swaziland, came out with a point each from their encounters against Tanzania and Niger respectively. Lesotho played to a one-all draw while Swaziland and Niger both failed to shake the nets in their contest.
The biggest loser of the opening fixtures was Seychelles who got 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Libya. Other losers include Namibia (0-1) against Guinea Bissau, Botswana (0-1) at the hands of Mauritania, Angola (1-3) beaten by Burkina Faso while Madagascar fell to Sudan by the same scoreline.
Meanwhile, 12 group winners will be joined by the best three group runners-up in qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Cameroon will qualify as the host nation of the biennial soccer extravaganza.
Full Results of opening fixtures:
|Friday:||Grp H: Ivory Coast 2-3 Guinea|
|Grp A: Sudan 1-3 Madagascar||Grp G: DR Congo 3-1 Congo|
|Grp E: Libya 5-1 Seychelles||Grp I: Burkina Faso 3-1 Angola|
|Saturday:||Grp C: Mali 2-1 Gabon|
|Grp B: Malawi 1-0 Comoros||Grp A: Senegal 3-0 Equatorial Guinea|
|Grp C: Burundi 3-0 South Sudan||Sunday:|
|Grp K: Zambia 0-1 Mozambique||Grp G: Zimbabwe 3-0 Liberia|
|Grp I: Botswana 0-1 Mauritania||Grp H: CAR 2-1 Rwanda|
|Grp B: Cameroon 1-0 Morocco||Grp D: Benin 1-0 The Gambia|
|Grp J: Niger 0-0 Swaziland||Grp F: Ghana 5-0 Ethiopia|
|Grp K: Guinea-Bissau 1-0 Namibia||Grp L: Cape Verde 0-1 Uganda|
|Grp E: Nigeria 0-2 South Africa||Grp D: Algeria 1-0 Togo|
|Grp F: Sierra Leone 2-1 Kenya||Grp J: Tunisia 1-0 Egypt|
|Grp L: Tanzania 1-1 Lesotho|