By Zazi Bariza

With the Super Eagles of Nigeria set to kick off their race to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup on Friday, very few Nigerians know the first thing about the Swazi team that lie in wait.

As a result, soccer fans in Nigeria are expecting the game to be a smooth walk over for the Eagles. However, a closer look at the Swazis reveals that they could be a bit tougher.


The senior male football team of Swaziland are called Sihlangu Semnikati. They are currently placed 130 on the FIFA World Ranking and 41st  in Africa. They have never qualified for either the FIFA World Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations. Their best ever placement on the FIFA World Ranking is the 93rd position they occupied in October 1993.

They suffered their heaviest defeat in March 2013 when they were hammered 10-0 by the Pharaohs of Egypt in an international friendly in Alexandria.

However, their biggest win came only a month ago when they hosted and mauled Djibouti 6-0 in a Russia 2018 first round first leg qualifier in Lobamba.


Harris Bulungu became caretaker coach of the Sihlangu in 2013 following the departure of Valere Billen. In 2014, he was appointed in full capacity.

Notable names to have worked handled Sihlungu are Bafana Bafana coach, Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba and Jan Van Winckel who has gone on to work with European sides such as Club Brugge and Olympique Marseille thereafter.

Tony Thulani Tsabedze
The dimunitive Mbabena Swallows of South Africa midfielder was responsible for the two goals that sank Guinea in the preliminary round of the CHAN qualifier earlier this year. He was also among the scorers in the historic 6-0 bashing of Djibouti.

12/06/15     Guinea 1 – 2 Swaziland (AFCON 2017 qualifier)
20/06/15     Swaziland 2 – 2 Angola (CHAN 2016 qualifier) 
09/10/15     Djibouti 0 – 6 Swaziland         (Russia 2018 qualifier)
17/10/15     Swaziland 2 – 1 Djibouti (Russia 2018 qualifier)

Coach Sunday Oliseh will lead the Eagles into this game with some memory of how difficult another lowly placed East African side, Tanzania, made life difficult for him in his first game in charge of the team.

Coach Oliseh  showed no sign of underrating the East Africans when he invited his most reliable legs for the fixture.

John Obi Mikel, who was unarguably the team’s best player in their last two games( against Congo and Cameroon), is in the team; while the likes of Odion Ighalo, Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose who also acquainted very well were not left out.

The home based likes of Paul Onobi, Chima Akas and Ezekiel Bassey showed real quality for the CHAN team and could be great additions if called upon on match day.

A big factor that may count for the team is that they seem to have overcome the in house fight that arose from the appointment of Ahmed Musa as skipper, culminating to the untimely retirement of veteran goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama.


I expect Sihlungu to come out buoyed in this game because playing against Nigeria will represent the highest achievement most of their players will have in their international careers. They will also be fired up by the 8-1 aggregate win recorded over Djibouti.

However, Nigeria are not Djibouti. I foresee a 3-0 victory for the Eagles.
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