Eagles Brought Down in World Cup Qualifier by Cheetahs of Benin Republic 1-2 in Abidjan.

Eagles Brought Down in World Cup Qualifier by Cheetahs of Benin Republic 1-2 in Abidjan.
Eagles Brought Down in World Cup Qualifier by Cheetahs of Benin Republic 1-2 in Abidjan.

Eniola Olatunji

The Cheetahs of Benin Republic on Monday night at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan stunned the Super Eagles of Nigeria with a 2-1 victory in the Group C world cup qualifier.

Nigeria had the bundle of talents but played individual football with lack of communication. Raphael Onyedika of Club Brugge got the first goal of the match for Nigeria from a Chukwueze pass in the box, sold a dummy to a defender and slotted the ball to the left side of the net in the 28th minute.

One kudo for Cheetahs is that they played as a team especially in the defence warding off the forays of the Nigerian attack and getting the balls upfront. Two goals came in the first half from Jodel Dossou of Sochaux who cashed on a defensive blunder to beat Nwabali in the 37th minute and Brest FC Captain, Steve Mounie got in the second goal in 45+3 minutes of the first half.

It was an embarrassing moment for Nigerians at the stadium who hung their musical instruments like Israel when they were in a strange land called Babylon with nobody to encourage the players especially Paul Onuche and Ademola Lookman who kept colliding in front of goal.

Thus, Benin Republic upgraded to the top of the group table in the most captivating victory they ever had with 7 points; Lesotho is 2nd with 5 points; Rwanda and South Africa has 4 points each leaving Nigeria at the 5th spot with 3 points and Zimbabwe at the bottom with 2 points though other teams were yet to play their 4th matches like Nigeria. 

Nigeria knew they have to defeat Benin Republic or let the thoughts of qualifying for the world cup finals perish on their minds. Their former Coach who qualified them for the 2018 world cup and two AFCON tournaments, Gernot Rohr believes that Nigeria will still qualify from the group but had expresses intention to defeat Nigeria in Abidjan.That Rohr believe is doubtful now.

Benin Republic had on 18th November 2023 lost 1-2 to South Africa in the qualifier series; played goalless with Lesotho on 21st November 2023 before shocking Rwanda in a lone goal victory. In between, the Cheetahs which are their new nick name now as they were formerly Squirrels had played 2-2 with Ivory Coast on 24th March 2024 and lost 0-1 to Senegal on 27th March 2024 both in friendly matches.

Nigeria has become draw specialists having played with and drew 1-1 in Uyo last Friday all in the three world cup qualifier matches played. Recall that Nigeria played 1-1 with South Africa in the semifinal of the last African Cup of Nations on 8th February 2024 before moving on in penalty victory to lose to Ivory Coast in the final on 12th February 2024. There were two friendly matches, a 2-1 victory over Ghana on 23rd March 2024 and an 0-2 loss to Mali on 27th March 2024.

We reckon that in modern times, there were 9 matches between both countries, 8 won by Nigeria, one victory to Benin and a draw. The modern highest victory Nigeria had was a friendly match played 9th April 2017 that ended 4-0; there were two Nations Cup matches on 13th August 2017 that Benin won 1-0 at home and the return match on 19th August 2017 was Nigeria 2-0;there was a WAFU match on 21st September 2017 Nigeria won by a lone goal and then two AFON matches, one on 14th November 2019 Nigeria won 2-1 and that of 28th March 2021 In Benin Republic Nigeria won by a lone goal.

Historically, Nigeria saw from the time the nation was Dahomey as little brothers to be whipped at will.  Dahomey’s first International match on 8th November 1959 ended in a lone goal victory to Nigeria but while the nation was still an annex of France that time, Nigeria walloped Dahomey 10-1 on 28th November 1959.

Benin ranked 97 in the world never qualified for the world cup finals. The country appeared 4 times at AFCON finals but their best result was a quarterfinal at Egypt 2019 when Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo emerged the highest Scorer with 5 goals Benin had played 1-1 on 5th July with Morocco but won on penalties 1-4 in R16 only to bow on 10th July to Senegal in Cairo 1-0.

Nigeria ranked 30 in the world appeared at the world cup 6 times and was always stopped in the round of 16 in 1994, 1998 and 2014. Appeared 20 times at AFCON and were champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013. Appeared at the Nations Cup 3 times and were Runners-up 2018.

Anyway, Benin has outstanding world cup matches away to Zimbabwe on 18th March 2025; pay at home against South Africa on 25th March 2025; play at home again to Zimbabwe on 2nd September 2025 and the final qualifier match on 9th September 2025 at home to Lesotho.

Nigeria’s outstanding matches are away to Rwanda on 18th March 2025; Home to Zimbabwe on 25th March 2025; Home to Rwanda on 2nd September 2025 and lastly away to South Africa on 9th September 2025.    

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