Three-time African Champions, Nigeria’s Super Eagles kicked start their campaign for the 2026 FIFA World Cup African qualifying series Day 1 on a shaking note after playing a 1-1 draw against the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, on Thursday, November 16, 2023.
Super Eagles were with Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze as both players are recovering from an injury they suffered during an international friendly in October.
Defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi opened the scoring for Lesotho in the 56th minute, as Nigeria fought back to get the equaliser through Simon Ajayi in the 67th minute.
Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro started Francis Uzoho in the goalkeeping position. Bright Osayi-Samuel, Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey and Jamilu Collins pioneered the backline.
Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi, and Kelechi Iheanacho were in charge of the midfield, while Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi, and Victor Boniface led Nigeria’s attack.
Nigeria dominated play in the first half as Lesotho’s backline saved Awoniyi’s shot in the seventh minute.
Nigeria continued to mount pressure and were close to hitting the back of the net following a brilliant combination between Osayi-Samuel and Iwobi in the 23rd minute. Lesotho’s goalie saved Iheanacho’s free kick, and Lookman shot to deny Nigeria a goal in the first half.
Lesotho started the second half with fresh energy and mounted pressure on the home side and it eventually paid off as Lesotho opened the scoring through Mkwanazi.
In a quick bid to rescue a point for Nigeria, Peseiro made two changes as he brought in Moses Simon for Ademola Lookman, and Terem Moffi replaced Awoniyi in the 59th minute as the three-time African champion went on the attack and finally got the equalizer with Ajayi.
The Portuguese tactician made three changes, bringing Joe Aribo for Onyeka, Jamilu Collins was substituted in the 73 minutes, and Ola Aina for Osayi-Samuel as Nigeria went on the attack in search of a comeback, but could only settle for a draw.
The Super Eagles will fly to Rwanda for their next match against the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Huye Stadium in Butare on Sunday, November 19, in a must-win to brighten their chances of playing in the 2026 FIFA World Cup that the United States of America, Mexico and Canada will jointly host.
In their 2021 AFCON fixture, the Eagles won 4-2 in Maseru with hefty contributions from Victor Osimhen, who got two goals and assisted two. In the return match at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos in March 2021, Osimhen scored one and assisted one in the 3-0 defeat of the visitors, which ensured the Eagles finished the qualification series unbeaten.