Super Eagles World Cup Hopes Dim After Shock 2-1 Benin Defeat

Super Eagles put up another shoddy performance in a 2-1 defeat to Benin Republic in a 2026 World Cup CAF Qualifying Group C match-day 4 fixture at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan on Monday.

Smarting from a 1-1 draw against South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo three days earlier, the Super Eagles gave frustrated Nigerians a glimpse of hope by going in front on 27 minutes through Rahpael Onyedika, who fired beautifully home from the edge of the box, after being assisted by Samuel Chukwueze.

The ovation that greeted the opener barely died down when Jodel Dossou drew the Cheetahs level on 37 minutes, while Steve Mounié made it 2-1 in first half added time to hand them a historic win over their illustrious neighbours.

Nigeria coach Finidi George made two changes to his starting line-up against South Africa, with Raphael Onyedika taking the place of Kelechi Iheanacho and Terem Moffi starting ahead of Paul Onuachu, but both changes apparently added no value to the team, as the Eagles lacked purpose and sense of direction.

Former Nigeria forward Finidi, who must be pinching himself sore for taking up the job in April, made five substitutions in a bid to force a positive result required to revive qualification hopes. 

Onuachu and Victor Boniface, who didn’t feature against South Africa, came on for Alex Iwobi and Terem Moffi respectively on 51 minutes; debutants Sodiq Ismail  and Ibrahim Olawoyin were 60th-minute replacements for right-back Bright Osayi-Samuel and Samuel Chukwueze respectively on 60 minutes and Alhassan Yusuf came on for Wilfred Ndidi in the 79th minute.

However, despite Finidi’s frantic efforts at truning the result his team’s way, the Beninoise drew rings around the Eagles, attacking and defending admirably when they chose to.

The result takes Nigeria farther away from the 2026 World Cup in Canada, USA and Mexico as they are now left with a mountain to climb in fifth position on three points, while Benin moved to the pinnacle of the log with seven points, pending Tuesday’s other two group fixtures, which will see South Africa (four points) host Zimbabwe, while Rwanda (four points) will be the guests of former leaders Lesotho (five points).

It also hands Benin and Gernot Rohr bragging rights over Nigeria, being arguably their first major victory over the Super Eagles, while the latter was sacked by Nigeria on 13th of December, 2021, after coaching the Super Eagles for almost six years of unprecedented player turnover without making tactical headway.

But it was the Franco-German gaffer who had the last laugh over his former employers after 95 minutes of football in Abidjan, as his players carried him on their shoulders after the stunning win over their more illustrious western neigbours.

It will take some magic for Nigeria to be back in reckoning and contention, but the three-time African champions will once again fancy their chances when the qualification series resume in March 2025, when they will host Zimbabwe on 24th of March and then travel to Rwanda seven days later.


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