Saturday, March 25, 2017

FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Nigeria v Malawi

SoccerNews in World Cup 5 Sep 2013

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Nigeria and Malawi meet in Calabar on Saturday, with the winner ensuring a spot in round three of the CAF qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup.

The current African Cup of Nations champions are two points clear of second-placed Malawi in Group F and just a point would be sufficient for Stephen Keshi’s men to qualify for the play-off round.

However, like Nigeria, Malawi are also unbeaten so far in qualification and have conceded just three goals in their last four group games.

The last time the sides met, the game was drawn 1-1 thanks to two goals in the dying embers of the match.

Azubuike Egwuekwe put Nigeria ahead after 89 minutes before John Banda grabbed an unlikely equaliser at the death.

As well as deciding whether or not Nigeria will reach their fifth World Cup from the last six, the clash also pairs Keshi with Malawi boss Tom Saintfiet.

The two men have previous, having not seen eye to eye since the Belgian asked for Saturday’s final qualifier to be moved away from Calabar because of safety concerns.

Keshi, described his opposite number on Saturday as “mad” and “crazy” before stating: “He is not an African person, he is a white dude, he should go back to Belgium.”

In response, the Malawi Football Association officially reported the matter to FIFA, describing the remarks as “racist” and “not acceptable”.

Saintfiet told BBC Sport he was “shocked” by the comments, adding: “These words create hate and aggression, and creates a risk ahead of the match in Calabar.”

While the tension between the two managers appears to have calmed in recent weeks, both will be determined to come out on top this Saturday.

Malawi, who have never reached the FIFA World Cup finals before, suffered a setback by losing 1-0 to Bostwana in a friendly on Tuesday.

However, Saintfiet confirmed he is not overly worried by the defeat, and wants his side focused on the three points that would put Malawi within one tie of Brazil.

“I’m happy that the game against Botswana has helped us to prepare because (with) some of the players it was my first time to see them,” he told the Malawi FA website.

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