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Mikel available in January as holders Nigeria fail to qualify for 2015 Africa Cup of Nations

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

And so it has come to pass that Nigeria put the final nail in their disastrous Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign coffin with a 2-2 draw at home against Group A winners South Africa.  With Congo beating Sudan 1-0 in the concurrent match, it is they who finish second and ensure qualification to the continental championship for the first time in 15 years.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Super Eagles by way of the best third-place qualifier, but even that door was shut when they failed to make their numerical advantage count over the last 20 minutes after Reneilwe Letsholonyane was sent off for Bafana Bafana.  Substitute Sone Aluko completed his brace in the 93rd minute to tie things up at 2-2, but Nigeria needed a win and there was simply not enough time to find the third.

Instead it was AFC Bournemouth's Tokelo Rantie who almost completed his hat trick for South Africa, after twice bullying his way through the Nigerian defense earlier in the game.  His second took advantage of a rather weak play by one Kenneth Omeruo, who had himself a match to forget and was withdrawn in the 75th minute in favor of an extra attacker.

Nigeria were guilty of missing several guilt-edged chances through Musa (three times), Uche (twice), and even Mikel (once).  The Chelsea man had a good game otherwise, controlling play, distributing the ball, and driving Nigeria forward.  Alas, he won't get to do so in January, and instead will have to make do with helping Chelsea maintain our push for the Premier League title (and other assorted trophies).

This also means that Victor Moses will get to stay with Stoke City, which will be extra funny when they take on Arsenal.  Sorry, Arsene!

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