In a much-anticipated Group C Match Day 1 fixture for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifications, Nigeria stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Lesotho, marking a lacklustre start to their campaign. The game, held at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, witnessed the Super Eagles struggling to dominate their opponents, despite the anticipation of a convincing victory owing to Lesotho’s lower FIFA ranking.
The match took an unexpected turn when Lesotho’s Motlomelo Mkwanazi capitalised on a corner kick, stunning Nigeria with a 56th-minute goal. Semi Ajayi’s powerful header, off Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner-kick, saved Nigeria from embarrassment, levelling the game 11 minutes later.
Nigeria’s attacking quartet, comprising Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi, and Victor Boniface, failed to challenge Lesotho’s goalkeeper, Sekhoane Moerane, missing crucial opportunities throughout the game. Moerane’s leadership at the back thwarted Nigeria’s offensive attempts, while the hosts also faced threats from Lesotho, narrowly avoiding conceding goals on a few occasions.
Despite showing promise in the second half, Nigeria’s attempts, including shots from Jamilu Collins and Iheanacho, were either saved or missed the mark. The game concluded with missed chances from both sides, resulting in a disappointing draw that left fans hoping for a better performance.
Looking ahead, Nigeria’s next encounter is against the Warriors of Zimbabwe at Huye Stadium in Butare on Sunday. Amidst discussions about the team’s goalkeeper choice, the Director of Communications for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Ademola Olajire, emphasized that the decision rests solely with coach Peseiro, indicating that the coach will select the most suitable goalkeeper for the team.
Expressing faith in the team’s potential, former Eagles player Etim Esin highlighted Victor Boniface as a key player to step up in the absence of the injured Victor Osimhen, urging confidence in Boniface’s goal-scoring abilities based on his performance in Germany’s league.
The draw against Lesotho has set a challenging tone for Nigeria in their quest for World Cup qualification, prompting heightened expectations and scrutiny as they prepare to face Zimbabwe in their upcoming crucial fixture.