Sports Mole previews Friday’s World Cup Qualifying – Africa clash between Eswatini and Libya, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Eswatini and Libya get their quest for a place in the 2026 World Cup underway when they go head to head at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday.
Off the back of a disappointing campaign in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, both sides will look to get one over the other and begin their journey for a first-ever World Cup appearance on a high.
Eswatini failed to find their feet last time out as they fell to a 2-1 loss at the hands of Botswana when the two nations squared off in a friendly matchup on October 16.
In a cagey affair at the Mbombela Stadium, Tumisang Orebonye and Lemogang Maswena scored on either side of Neliso Meyeni‘s 56th-minute equaliser to hand the Zebras a narrow victory.
With that result, Dominic Kunene‘s men have gone four consecutive games without a win across all competitions, losing twice and picking up two draws, including a goalless draw against Burkina Faso in their final game of the AFCON qualifiers on September 8.
September’s stalemate with Burkina Faso capped off a forgettable qualifying campaign for Eswatini, who failed to win any of their six matches in Group B to finish rooted to the bottom of the table with just three points from a possible 18.
Libya, on the other hand, wrapped off their preparations for the World Cup qualifiers in style as they picked up a deserved 2-1 friendly victory over Sudan last Saturday.
In a thrilling contest at the Benina Martyrs Stadium, goals in either half from Faisal Al-Badri and Omar Al-Khoja saw the Mediterranean Knights pick up a morale-boosting victory.
Libya have now gone unbeaten in their three warm-up friendly fixtures since the start of October, claiming victories over Liberia and Sudan respectively, with a 1-1 draw against Niger on October 17 sandwiched between the two wins.
Prior to their friendly schedule, Libya brought another disappointing AFCON qualifying campaign to an end on September 6, when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea on home turf.
With their last appearance in the continental tournament coming in 2012, when they suffered a group-stage exit, Libya lost four of their six matches in Group B while claiming one win and one draw to finish rooted to the bottom of the table with just three points.
While Hamdi Bataw‘s men will be seeking a better start to the World Cup qualifiers, they have lost each of their last six seven competitive matches on the road, conceding 12 goals and scoring just twice in that time.
Libya’s last competitive victory away from home came back in September 2021, when they scraped a 1-0 win over Angola in the World Cup qualifier courtesy of a first-half strike from Anas Al Khouja.
Eswatini World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Eswatini form (all competitions):
Libya World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Libya form (all competitions):
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Eswatini have named an experienced squad for their upcoming qualifying games against Libya and Cameroon, including the Mbabane Swallows defensive duo of Kwakhe Tfwala and Philiso Newman.
Sabelo Ndzinisa and Mbabane Highlanders Philani Mkhonto should lead the attack, while the duo of Bongwa Matsebula and Neliso Myeni have been overlooked by head coach Kunene.
Having suffered a muscle injury two weeks ago, Khanyakwezwe Shabalala has been passed fit to make the Libya squad and the 30-year-old should start between the sticks on Friday.
Justice Figuaredo has been omitted from the squad as he is currently recuperating from an injury, while Young Buffaloes’ man Mthokozisi Gwebu has withdrawn from camp due to personal reasons.
Veteran midfielder Al-Badri opened the scoring against Sudan last Saturday and should retain his role at the centre of the park, teaming up with Al Alhy Benghazi man Suhaib Ben Suleiman.
At the defensive end of the pitch, Ali Yusuf and Taher Ben Amer should form the centre-back pairing, with Al Ahli Tripoli goalkeeper Aymen Al Tihar starting between the sticks once again.
Eswatini possible starting lineup:
Shabalala; Tfwala, Ginindza, Masangane, Newman; Mabelesa, Matse, Magagula; Ndzinisa, Matsebula, Gwebu
Libya possible starting lineup:
Al Tihar; Sourait, Yusuf, Amer, Mabrouk; Al-Badri, Suleiman; Jaddour, Al Gleib, Al Mesmari; Bousheiba
We say: Eswatini X-Y Libya
Libya have put together a fine run of form head into the qualifiers and will fancy their chances against an Eswatini side who have lost their last four competitive home games. We predict a cagey affair at the Mbombela Stadium, with the Mediterranean Knights claiming a narrow victory.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.