Nigeria’s World Cup Hopes in Jeopardy After Shock Defeat to Benin

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Nigeria’s aspirations for the 2026 World Cup took a severe hit on Monday evening after the Super Eagles suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat to Benin in their qualifying campaign. This loss, combined with three previous draws, leaves Nigeria in a precarious position in Group C.

The Super Eagles started the match on a positive note, with Raphael Onyedika breaking the deadlock within the first half-hour. Onyedika’s goal, a superb finish from the edge of the area, gave Nigeria an early lead and seemed to set the tone for a much-needed victory.

However, the situation quickly deteriorated. Benin’s Jodel Dossou equalized shortly before halftime, seizing on a defensive blunder from Nigeria. Adding to Nigeria’s woes, former Huddersfield striker Steve Mounie put Benin ahead in stoppage time, capitalizing on poor marking during a corner kick.

See Also: Super Eagles Ready for Benin Republic – Finidi

Despite their efforts, Nigeria could not recover after the break. Benin’s defense, managed by former Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, stood firm, denying the Super Eagles any clear scoring opportunities. Rohr, who previously helmed Nigeria’s national team, enjoyed a triumphant reunion, orchestrating a tactical victory against his former side.

This defeat leaves Nigeria fifth in their six-team group, with a mere three points from their first four matches. Benin now tops Group C with seven points, although Lesotho, currently trailing, has a game in hand and could potentially overtake them.

The structure of the qualification process adds further pressure on Nigeria. Only the team finishing first in the group is assured a spot in the 2026 World Cup, to be held across the USA, Canada, and Mexico. The four best runners-up from the groups will have a chance to qualify via a playoff.

The road ahead for Nigeria is daunting. They must significantly improve their performance in the remaining six qualifiers to keep their World Cup dreams alive. The team will have an extended break before resuming their campaign against Rwanda in March next year. A week later, they will host Zimbabwe, followed by critical fixtures against Rwanda, South Africa, Lesotho, and a rematch with Benin in 2025.

Source: Standard

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