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Nigeria Begin 2026 World Cup Qualifiers With Draw Against Lesotho

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Nigeria began the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on a shaky note when they were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by minnows Lesotho. 

Lesotho had taken the lead in the 56th minute against the run of play in the Group C qualifiers at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Thursday.

But 11 minutes later, defender Semi Ajayi rose to the occasion to power a header past the Crocodiles’ post to restore parity for the host team.

The Super Eagles enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the Group C game but a combination of wasteful finishing and defensive heroics from the South African side made the job tough for Nigeria.

Coach Jose Peseiro’s men pressed their opponents and could have taken the lead in the 36th minute. But Nottingham Forests’ Taiwo Awoniyi wasted a brilliant cutback from Victor Boniface, kicking the ball inches away from goal.

About eight minutes later, Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman’s shot was tipped over the bar by the Lesotho goalkeeper while Boniface’s downward header at the stroke of halftime posed no issues for the goalkeeper.

While the first half ended goalless, Nigerian resumed the second 45 minutes with more urgency. But against the run of play, Motlomelo Mkhwanaz scored for the away side in the 56th minute with their first shot on target.

With a shocking home defeat on the horizon, the Super Eagles rallied to level hostilities. But this time, the equaliser came from an unlikely source. Semi Ajayi towered above the Lesotho defenders and headed home Nigeria’s equaliser in the 67th minute.

Having 13 minutes left to play, Nigeria surged forward in search of a goal. Their efforts, however, failed as the Crocodiles defended gallantly to earn a historic point against one of Africa’s most decorated teams.

But on Sunday, the Super Eagles have a chance to get back their campaign on track when they face Zimbabwe in their second clash of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Earlier, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, who are also in Group C of the qualification campaign, drew goalless while South Africa take on Benin Republic in the same lot on Saturday.



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