Super Eagles in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Profiling Nigeria’s opponents

Super Eagles in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers: Profiling Nigeria’s opponents
Credit: Icon Sport

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been drawn in Group C alongside South Africa, Benin Republic, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers scheduled to begin in November this year.

The draw ceremony was held on Thursday in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, and had FIFA's boss Gianni Infantino, CAF's chief Patrice Motsepe, and many other African football legends in attendance.

The Super Eagles missed out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar having lost to the Black Stars of Ghana in the final playoffs and will be hoping to correct the disappointments and give Nigerians their expectations as the qualies get underway.

The world's football governing body had unanimously agreed to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup earlier this year.

To that effect, the 2026 World Cup will feature 48 teams for the first time in the tournament’s history, with the expansion seeing Africa’s slot increased from five to nine (and it could be 10 depending on playoffs results)

You can see the full draw here: Africa 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – All the groups

For the purpose of this article, we'll be looking at Nigeria's opponents in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Super Eagles 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers opponents

The 2026 World Cup qualifiers will see all African countries involved, divided into nine groups, with six teams in each group.

The teams will play their matches in a home-and-away format, with each of the group winners qualifying automatically for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in USA, Mexico and Canada.

Nigeria are in Group C and are favourites to top the group. Let's now look at the teams, their FIFA World Cup history and head-to-head records with Nigeria.

South Africa

South Africa have appeared in the FIFA World Cup on three occasions in 1998, 2002, and 2010. You'd recall that the 2010 edition of the World Cup, which Spain won, was staged in South Africa.

South Africa have not made it past the first round in their three attemps. The team's first attempt to qualify was for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. They finished second in their group, behind Nigeria, who went on to play at the World Cup.

Their first appearance was in France 1998, six years after they had been re-admitted to the global football family, but a loss to the hosts and eventual winners, and two draws, knocked them out of the competition in the group stage.

Korea/Japan 2002 was expected to be an opportunity for Bafana Bafana to step up to the next level. Still, they were eliminated at the group stage despite drawing with Paraguay and beating Slovenia 1-0 for their first-ever World Cup win.

During the 2010 World Cup on their home soil, they beat France 2-1 and drew 1-1 to Mexico, but lost 0-3 to Uruguay. They failed to make the Round of 16 on goal difference and thus became the first World Cup host nation to fail to advance past the group stage.

South Africa have rivalled Nigeria for years in African football. From the World Cup to the Africa Cup of Nations. As a matter of fact, both countries have rivalled each other in every level of African football and will be squaring off yet another time for a place in the next World Cup.

On this note, the Bafana Bafana will be eager to return the heartbreak Nigeria meted out to them in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers as both sides match up again.

Nigeria vs South Africa head-to-head

Nigeria and South Africa have met ten times since 2004, with Nigeria picking up five wins, South Africa one win, while four games ended in stalemates.

Benin Republic

Benin Republic has been affiliated with FIFA since 1962 but they have never qualified for the World Cup.

They have it all to play for as the players will be dreaming of making history and etching their names in the annals of history for Benin Republic.

It's worthy to note that the Super Eagles' tie with Benin Republic will be the first against former manager Gernot Rohr since he was relieved from his position in 2021.

Nigeria vs Benin Republic head-to-head

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have battled Benin Republic eight times. Benin Republic have one win, while Nigeria have seven wins.

Super Eagles
Photo by Icon Sport

Rwanda

The Rwandan senior football team, also called the Amavubi (The Wasps), have previously never qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals.

The Amavubi will be dreaming to upset the odds in Group C and qualify for their first-ever World Cup.

Nigeria vs Rwanda head-to-head

Nigeria has met Rwanda on three occasions. Nigeria have one win, while two games ended in a draw.

Lesotho

Lesotho are ranked 152nd by FIFA and are the Group C underdogs. They've previously never qualified for a World Cup or even reached the Africa Cup of Nations.

Their primary aim will be to avoid being the group's weeping boys, and it'll be difficult to see how they can avoid finishing bottom of Group C.

Interestingly, they'll be squaring off against their regional rivals South Africa and Zimbabwe, with against whom they've lost on a number of occassions.

Nigeria vs Lesotho head-to-head

Nigeria have played Lesotho four times in history. The Super Eagles have four wins out of four.

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe senior team have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals. They've only qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations five times.

But they can dream, as anything is possible in the world of football if they can be at their very best against the giants in the group.

Nigeria vs Zimbabwe head-to-head

Nigeria and Zimbabwe have met just three times in their history. Nigeria picked up wins in all three games.

Reaction of Nigerian fans to Super Eagles' 2026 FIFA World Cup qualies opponents

Nigerians have reacted to the FIFA World Cup qualifiers draw across social media platforms.

Disappointment from the team's failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians, and the recent World Cup qualifiers draw has prompted football fans in the country to react. Some have urged the team not to be complacent.

In this article, we'll take reactions from only Twitter.

One fan with the handle @raphokoli tweeted “A win at home and a draw away to South Africa will be enough to see us through..the rest of the teams don't pose any threat to the Super Eagles”

@suresource_1 wrote, “On paper, Super Eagles should go through easily but with the current realities in football, underrate any team and get punished.

Another fan said “One way this team would atone for their past failings is to win this group. Simple, no complaints!”

@dimeji 268 added “Either Nigeria or South Africa is destined to miss out from the World Cup back to back.”

@Diamond101231 reacted thus “We will end the Amapiano debate”

You can check this Tweet for more reactions:

The FIFA World Cup qualifiers will begin in November, and Nigeria will first play Benin Republic in Group C.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Joseph is a graduate engineer turned sports writer, he has covered lots of sports stories, match previews and predictions across various leagues on the planet.