The Super Eagles of Nigeria have qualified for the final qualifying play-off of the 2022 FIFA World Cup following a 1-1 draw with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, on Tuesday.
The Nigerian team knew before kickoff that it needed only a draw to secure progress to the next qualifying round, while the Blue Sharks stormed Lagos seeking to get the much-needed win and upset their more illustrious hosts.
Gernot Rohr’s men attacked from the blast of the whistle and went ahead just a minute after kickoff as Victor Osimhen capitalised on a defensive error in the Cape Verde penalty box and cooly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ryan Mendes.
The visitors, however, struck back in the fifth minute as Stopira poked the ball into a literally empty net after the Nigerians failed to clear their lines from a corner kick.
The Super Eagles largely dominated the first half as they created numerous chances, but were kept at bay by the impressive goalkeeping skills and saves of Mendes.
Odion Ighalo, who returned to the ‘Eagles lineup for the first time after a two-year absence, was one of the guilty players who missed guilt-edged chances as he scuffed his shot after the ball was nicely laid out to him by Jamilu Collins. The rebound fell to Joe Aribo, who played the ball wide.
Aribo had a proper chance of his own from the edge of the box, but the well-placed shot which was going into the left-hand corner of the net was saved acrobatically by Mendez.
The Cape Verde goalkeeper also stopped a ferocious header from Wilfred Ndidi, who got to nod the ball from a corner kick just before half-time.
It was, however, a different Super Eagles that turned up in the second half as they became lethargic in both play and movement. The only bright moment for the Nigerian team was the performance of Osimhen, who continued to trouble the Blue Sharks’ defence with his strength, agility and pace.
Cape Verde had a much better second half and troubled the Nigerian defence with their runs, diagonal passes and midfield play, but they were unable to fashion out clear-cut chances to trouble goalkeeper Okoye.
Nigeria finished top of Group C with 13 points, recording four wins, one draw and one loss.
The Super Eagles would participate in the play-offs scheduled for March 2022, which would be a two-legged affair with one of the other countries who qualified for the final round. The opponent is yet-to-be decided.