JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Sep 8 – Libya forced a 0-0 draw with South Africa in Durban Saturday to remain surprise Group E leaders in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying competition.
When the mini-leagues draw was made, former African champions Nigeria and South Africa were installed as favourites to fill the two places available for the finals in Cameroon.
But with two of the six qualifying rounds completed, Libya lead with four points, South Africa and Nigeria have three each and the Seychelles are pointless.
Algeria-born coach Adel Amrouche said he hoped the goalless stalemate at Moses Mabhida Stadium in the Indian Ocean port city would bring joy to the Libyan people.
“Only football can bring the people together,” said the 50-year-old former coach of Equatorial Guinea, Burundi and Kenya.
He was talking after deadly clashes in Tripoli last week between rival militias battling for control of the Libyan capital.
Libyan national and club teams have had to host home matches outside the north African country because of safety issues since the 2011 death of dictator Muamar Kadhafi.
“I am not coaching Libya for money — I want to help bring happiness to the people by taking the national team to the 2019 Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon,” said Amrouche.
The match staged in wet conditions before a small crowd followed a predictable pattern with Libya putting virtually their entire team behind the ball whenever threatened.
It led to an international that delivered little excitement and the match appeared destined to finish goalless long before the final whistle.
“We battled to gain possession against physically strong opponents and then surrendered the ball too easily at times,” admitted England-born South Africa coach Stuart Baxter.
Libya face Nigeria twice between October 8 and 16 while South Africa host and visit the Seychelles at the same time.