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FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS: Benin, Algeria grab vital wins, as Nigeria lose ground

FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS: Benin, Algeria grab vital wins, as Nigeria lose ground

Benin and Algeria displayed courageous fighting spirit on Monday, 10 June after coming from behind to collect all three points in their respective FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Benin played host to Nigeria in fixture staged in Abidjan, while Algeria were away to Uganda in a match played in Namboole.

Guinea-Bissau were also in action on Monday afternoon against record African champions, Egypt in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw that saw the two sides share the spoils.

Benin 2 – 1 Nigeria

After being held by South Africa at home this past weekend, the Super Eagles were aiming for nothing less than a victory away from home. Raphael Onyedika’s 27th minute strike looked to have put the Nigerians in the driving seat, but their joy was short-lived thanks to Jodel Dossou and Steve Mounie’s respective strikes that saw Benin snatch a victory.

READ ALSO: SUPER EAGLES: Daniel Amokachi, two ‘expatriates’ to assist Finidi George

The result propelled Benin to the summit of Group C, while the Super Eagles see their FIFA World Cup chances heavily dented in a result that sees them move down to fifth, just a point behind Zimbabwe who are away to South Africa on Tuesday evening.

Uganda 1 – 2 Algeria

Following last week’s 2-1 loss to Guinea, Algeria enjoyed an away victory by the same scoreline over Uganda who initially took the lead in as early as the 10th minute courtesy of Travis Mutyaba.

The early concession did not deter the Algerians from their objective and their efforts were duly rewarded in the 46th minute when Houssem Aouar levelled matters before Said Benrahma found the all-important goal to seal a crucial victory for the north Africans.

Guinea-Bissau 1 – 1 Egypt

The Pharaohs maintained their lead at the top of Group A following a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Guinea-Bissau away from home.

The hosts took the lead in the 42nd minute when Mama Baldé broke the deadlock. It was however Egypt’s trusted man, Mohammed Salah who

levelled matters in the 70th minute to ensure that his side remain in the driver’s seat in Group A.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles’ loss has sparked a wave of criticism directed at the head coach, Finidi George, with fans questioning his tactics and player selection.

The loss, which saw Nigeria fall behind Benin and South Africa in their qualifying group, has left the team’s hopes of reaching the 2026 World Cup hanging.

It was another shoddy performance at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan after a disappointing 1-1 draw against South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo in Nigeria three days earlier.

The Super Eagles gave frustrated Nigerians a glimpse of hope by going in front on 27 minutes through Rahpael Onyedika, who fired beautifully home from the edge of the box, after being assisted by Samuel Chukwueze.

The ovation that greeted the opener barely died down when Jodel Dossou drew the Cheetahs level on 37 minutes, while Steve Mounié made it 2-1 in first half added time to hand them a historic win over their illustrious neighbours.

Nigeria coach Finidi George made two changes to his starting line-up against South Africa, with Raphael Onyedika taking the place of Kelechi Iheanacho and Terem Moffi starting ahead of Paul Onuachu, but both changes apparently added no value to the team.

Coach George made five substitutions in a bid to force a positive result required to revive qualification hopes.

Onuachu and Victor Boniface, who didn’t feature against South Africa, came on for Alex Iwobi and Terem Moffi respectively on 51 minutes; debutants Sodiq Ismail and Ibrahim Olawoyin were 60th-minute replacements for right-back Bright Osayi-Samuel and Samuel Chukwueze respectively on 60 minutes and Alhassan Yusuf came on for Wilfred Ndidi in the 79th minute.

However, despite Finidi’s frantic efforts at turning the result his team’s way, the Beninoise drew rings around the Eagles, attacking and defending admirably when they chose to.

The result takes Nigeria farther away from the 2026 World Cup in Canada, USA and Mexico as they are now left with a mountain to climb in fifth position on three points, while Benin moved to the pinnacle of the log with seven points, pending Tuesday’s other two group fixtures, which will see South Africa (four points) host Zimbabwe, while Rwanda (four points) will be the guests of former leaders Lesotho (five points).

It also hands Benin and Gernot Rohr bragging rights over Nigeria, being arguably their first major victory over the Super Eagles, while the latter was sacked by Nigeria on December 13, 2021, after coaching the Super Eagles for almost six years of unprecedented player turnover without making tactical headway.

But it was the Franco-German gaffer who had the last laugh over his former employers after 95 minutes of football in Abidjan, as his players carried him on their shoulders after the stunning win over their more illustrious western neigbours.

Qualification series resumes in March 2025 when Eagles will host Zimbabwe on March 24 and then travel to Rwanda seven days later.

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