Nigeria’s 2026 World Cup Hopes Dented by Shock 2-1 Loss to Benin Republic

Abidjan, Ivory Coast – June 10, 2024: Nigeria’s ambitions for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification took a major blow following an unexpected 2-1 defeat to the Benin Republic on Monday evening.

The Super Eagles, who were anticipated to dominate the match at Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, now face a critical challenge in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The encounter started with high expectations for Nigeria, as Raphael Onyedika opened the scoring for coach Finidi George’s side, bringing a brief moment of optimism after their 1-1 draw with South Africa last Friday. However, the lead was quickly erased when Benin Republic’s Jodel Dossou equalized. Shortly before halftime, Steve Mounie put the Cheetahs ahead with a goal that would eventually seal the match at 2-1.

Despite several attempts to regain control in the second half, Nigeria struggled to break through Benin’s resolute defense. The Super Eagles’ offensive efforts were consistently thwarted, highlighting issues in cohesion and creativity within the team.

This defeat leaves Nigeria in a precarious position, currently fifth in their qualifying group with just 3 points from four matches, trailing behind leaders Benin Republic who have 7 points. Lesotho follows with 5 points, while Rwanda and South Africa each have 4 points. Zimbabwe is at the bottom with 2 points. It’s noteworthy that Nigeria and Benin have played four matches, while the other teams in the group have played only three.

Nigeria now faces an uphill task, with six matches remaining in their qualifying series. Their next match is against Rwanda on March 17, 2025, followed by crucial fixtures against Zimbabwe, Rwanda again, South Africa, Lesotho, and another face-off with Benin Republic.

The loss to Benin highlights significant challenges within the Nigerian team. Despite a roster of talented players, the Super Eagles have grappled with inconsistency and a lack of effectiveness both defensively and offensively. Immediate action from the management and coaching staff is required to address these issues.

Key players will need to elevate their performance, and tactical changes are essential to ensure the team can compete effectively in the upcoming fixtures. To revive their World Cup hopes, Nigeria must focus on enhancing defensive solidity, improving midfield creativity, and capitalizing on their remaining matches.

Expressing his disappointment, Isa Saleh, Co-founder of Borno Junior League, told DAILY POST, “The Super Eagles’ journey to the 2026 World Cup has hit a significant obstacle after their disappointing defeat to Benin Republic. I was particularly disheartened by their inability to maintain their lead and by the defensive lapses that led to conceding two goals before halftime.”

Saleh emphasized the need for a strategic overhaul. “With six matches left, Nigeria still has a chance to qualify, but they must regroup, strategize, and execute with precision. The next game against Rwanda will be pivotal, and a victory could reignite their campaign. Coach Finidi needs to refine his tactics and ensure the best players are on the field.”

For Nigeria, consistent performances are crucial in the remaining qualifiers, and dropping points is no longer an option if they hope to secure a spot in the 2026 World Cup.

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