The Super Eagles began their journey to the 2026 FIFA World Cup with a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Lesotho’s Crocodiles at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo yesterday.
Nigeria showed resilience to level the score with Semi Ajayi, the West Bromwich Albion defender, becoming the nation’s hero as the Super Eagles split the points with Lesotho at home.
The hosts played well, but they failed to find the winning touch in the final part of the game.
Nigeria had the most chances of the match, but they squandered them, as Taiwo Awoniyi missed the golden opportunity in the first half.
Kelechi Iheanaho and Jamilu Collins came close, but it was the visitors who scored the first goal in the second half to take a surprising lead.
Lesotho shocked their hosts by scoring eight minutes after the break, against the flow of the game.
They capitalised on their first corner of the game as Motlomelo Mkwanazi rose above everyone else to head the away side into the lead.
The Crocodiles rejoiced as if they had triumphed, with their bench sprinting onto the pitch and joining the scorer in the celebrations.
However, Coach Jose Peseiro acted swiftly as he substituted Moses Simon and Terem Moffi for Ademola Lookman and Taiwo Awoniyi, which boosted the attack as the Super Eagles searched for an equaliser.
This move worked as Ajayi headed in from a corner kick to rescue Nigeria from a terrible start to the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Nigeria is in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers, along with Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, and the Benin Republic. Nigeria is second behind Lesotho.
The Super Eagles will fly to Butare, Rwanda, to face the Warriors of Zimbabwe in a Day 2 clash on Sunday.
They will then host South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and play away to Benin Republic in June 2024, before a series of six matches between March and October 2025 that will decide the winner and the team eligible from the pool to represent Africa in the USA, Canada, and Mexico in the summer of 2026.