The Super Eagles on Thursday kicked off their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying series with a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
Nigeria had come from behind to salvage a point with West Bromwich Albion defender Semi Ajayi being the country’s hero to share of the spoils at home.
Despite their strong performance, the hosts were unable to find the decisive edge in the last part of the game.
Nigeria had the best opportunities of the match, but they wasted them, as Taiwo Awoniyi missed the best opportunity in the first half.
Although Kelechi Iheanaho and Jamilu Collins both went close, it was the visitors who broke the tie in the second half to take an unexpected advantage.
Lesotho took the lead eight minutes into the resumption, against the run of play to shock their hosts.
The Crocodiles made their first corner of the game count as Motlomelo Mkwanazi towered above everyone else to head the away side in ahead.
The Crocodiles celebrated as if they had won, with their bench running onto the pitch and crossing to join in the celebrations with the scorer.
Nigeria put on further pressure in an attempt to tie the score after falling behind.
Coach Jose Peseiro introduced Moses Simon and Terem Moffi in place of Ademola Lookman and Taiwo Awoniyi in search of a goal.
This move paid off as Ajayi headed in from a corner kick to save Nigeria from a disastrous start to the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Nigeria are in Group C of the World Cup qualifiers alongside Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, and Benin Republic. Nigeria is second behind Lesotho.
The Super Eagles will fly to Butare in Rwanda to take on the Warriors of Zimbabwe in a Day 2 encounter on Sunday.
They will then host South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and then play away to Benin Republic in June 2024, before a run of six matches between March and October 2025 that will determine the winner, and the team eligible from the pool to fly Africa’s flag in USA, Canada and Mexico in the summer of 2026.