The Super Eagles of Nigeria took on the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on Thursday evening in their opening Group C match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Ahead of kick-off, Nigeria had gained an early advantage following the goalless draw between Rwanda and Zimbabwe in the first Group C match on Wednesday.
However, after a scoreless first half where the Eagles lacked precision, an improved second-half display from Lesotho opened the scoring in the 56th minute before Semi Ajayi restored parity for Nigeria 11 minutes later to ensure both sides shared the spoils.
— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) November 16, 2023
Let's delve into how it went down!
Super Eagles dominated the first half without scoring
Nigeria began the match on the front foot with an early free-kick opportunity that wasn't taken.
The Super Eagles continued their dominance over the Crocodiles, pegging the visitors at the back for almost half an hour with some misses coming in from half chances.
In the 34th minute, a free-kick was nicely curled by Kelechi Iheanach,o which forced a decent save from the Lesotho goalie.
Nonetheless, the best chance of the first half fell to Iheanacho in the 36th minute after a good pass from Victor Boniface in the box, but the Leicester forward surprisingly missed what looked like an easy goal.
The last chance for the team saw Ademola Lookman's effort at the stroke of halftime saved by the goalkeeper.
Despite the team's 74% ball possession and five shots on target, Nigeria went to the break goalless at the Nest of Champions.
Both teams find the back of the net
The Super Eagles stepped up in the second half and looked to get the first goal. However, against the run of play, Lesotho took the lead in the 56th minute from Mkwanazi.
Peseiro responded after going behind with Taiwo Awoniyi and Lookman replaced by Terem Moffi and Moses Simon three minutes later.
The Eagles probed for an equalizer which came in the 67th minute as Ajayi finished up from an Iheanacho's assist.
Nigeria searched for the winning goal as time went by but the Crocodiles stood firm to snatch a shocking draw as the game ended 1-1 apiece.
The Super Eagles had dominated the matches between these two countries, having won all four games with Lesotho, scoring ten goals and allowing two, while holding three clean sheets.
Nonetheless, in their fifth meeting, Lesotho registered a draw with Nigeria.
After beating Sao Tome and Principe 6-0 to round off that AFCON qualification campaign, Nigeria drew with Saudi Arabia and defeated Mozambique in friendlies last month in preparation for this game.
That run took Nigeria to five games without a defeat and had put the team in a positive momentum against one of Africa’s last remaining minnows ranked 153 in the FIFA Rankings.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup last year but Peseiro's team failed to take advantage of Rwanda's draw with Zimbabwe on Wednesday.
With this draw, the Super Eagles qualification process for a ticket in USA/Mexico/Canada in 2026 won't be a smooth one.
The Eagles will next lock horns with Zimbabwe on Sunday in their second game of the World Cup qualifiers.
Super Eagles confirmed lineups: Uzoho (GK); Bassey, Collins, Osayi-Samuel, Ajayi; Iwobi, Onyeka, Iheanacho, Boniface, Awoniyi.
Subs: Obasogie, Ojo, Aina, Onyedika, Moffi, Tells, Aribo, Simon, Umar, Awaziem, Onyemaechi, Omeruo.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 weeks ago