Nigeria's World Cup hopes put on hold
AROUND THE WORLD ...
Nigeria will head to the Confederations Cup in Brazil with its place in the final round of World Cup qualifiers in Africa still undecided after a 1-1 draw in Namibia.
Malawi now has an outside chance of overhauling the African champion in Group F and taking the spot in the decisive playoffs if it wins in Nigeria in the final round of group games in September.
Victory in Namibia on Wednesday would have made sure of Nigeria's progress to Africa's final two-legged playoffs for Brazil 2014 after Malawi's home draw with Kenya. Wrapping up a place in those playoffs would have eased the pressure on the well-traveled Cup of Nations winner ahead of the Confederations Cup.
But the Nigerians had to battle for a point in Windhoek through defender Godfrey Oboabona's 83rd-minute equalizer after Namibia led in the 77th through substitute Deon Hotto Kavendji.
Nigeria now travels to Brazil after having drawn with Mexico in a friendly in the United States on May 31 and then played two World Cup qualifiers in a week, in Kenya and Namibia. Fatigue could start to set in for Stephen Keshi's squad ahead of the Confederations Cup, which starts on Saturday.
Nigeria plays its first game at the Confederations Cup in nearly 20 years on Monday against Tahiti, before matches with Uruguay and world champion Spain. Nigeria last played at the World Cup warm-up tournament in 1995 but returns this year after February's victory over Burkina Faso in the African Cup final.
In Blantyre, Malawi twice led Kenya before substitute Chimango Kayira's own goal in the 90th minute ensured the 2-2 draw. Having never been to a World Cup, Malawi's hopes rest on a surprise win in Nigeria in the final round of games, which would take it through to the final playoffs for one of Africa's five places at next year's World Cup.
Group F fixtures were brought forward because of Nigeria's Confederations Cup appearance. The remaining penultimate group games in African qualifying are set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.