By: Chuks Ogbu
The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Thursday started their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifications on a rather disappointing note as the 6 times World Cup participants failed to get the three maximum points against the Crocodiles of Lesotho.
The Super Eagles attacking line of stand-in captain Kelechi Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Boniface threw stones and sticks at the opposition goal-area but an inspired goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane, also the team captain, and his rearguard foiled all the attempts and frustrated spectators at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
The Crocodiles of Lesotho almost took the lead after 16 minutes when Tsepang Seeali fired point-blank at Francis Uzoho after a poor touch in the box by Alex Iwobi, playing uncharacteristically deep at the back, released the forward who saw his effort parried by Uzoho.
Jamilu Collins, Victor Boniface and Kelechi Iheanacho came close to scoring but missed marginally.
Taiwo Awoniyi missed Nigeria’s best chance of the first period when dragging wide a pass by Boniface in the 36th minute, and Lookman watched in shock as his left-footed belter was parried away.
In the second period, Iwobi saw his shot parried in the 52nd minute, and then three minutes later, the Crocodiles shot ahead when Uzoho failed to deal with the ball from a corner kick and Motlomelo Mkwanazi struck gold with a bullet header that sailed into the net.
The Eagles stepped up a gear and Moerane had saved from Collins and Iheanacho watched his shot come back off the upright before Semi Ajayi nodded powerfully past the goal-tender from a corner kick by Iheanacho, for Nigeria’s leveller half-way into the second half.
The Super Eagles had lots of chances to take the lead but unfortunately failed to convert. The game ended 1-1 much to the disappointment of the Nigerian fans.
Nigeria will fly to the city of Butare in Rwanda to face the Warriors of Zimbabwe who have adopted the Huye Stadium as their home ground, the clash will be on Sunday.