By Sibusiso Masilela
It was another painful day for the long-suffering emaSwati who continued to endure pain inflicted by the continuous poor performance of their beloved national team Sihlangu.
The senior men’s national side once again disappointed the nation with a slender defeat during the opening games of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Libya at Mbombela Stadium on Friday afternoon. The presence of newly appointed Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Muzi Nzima could not inspire the Dominic Kunene-led side, who failed to recover from the North Africans’ second-half goal scored by Ahmed Ekwara.
The result stretched the nation’s pride’s winless streak to six matches in two major tournaments, excluding the 2-1 win over Namibia during the COSAFA Cup, an average record that is dominated by three losses and three draws, including the recently ended 2023 AFCON Qualifiers.
Kunene stuck to his usual starting line-up comprising the likes of Khanyakwezwe Shabalala, Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa and Mzwandile Mabelesa, among others.
Sihlangu created few chances on the day. Young Buffaloes winger Bongwa Matsebula, failed to finish off a Mxolisi Manana long ball within the first quarter of the game thus allowing the match to go to a breather on a barren stalemate. Kunene made some changes in the second half by introducing Ayanda Gadlela and Sizolwethu Shabalala after Milutin Sredojević drew the first blood, with the local side failing to restore parity within regulation time.
Sihlangu will take on Islanders Cape Verde in their next Group D match on Tuesday at the same venue. The local lads are still going to face Cameroon, Angola and Mauritius in the other group matches in pursuit of a place in the next global showpiece finals to be jointly hosted by the United States of America (USA), Canada and Mexico in 2026.