A 90th-minute strike saw Central African Republic CAR stun Nigeria in their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Lagos and throw open the race for the World Cup ticket in Group C.
Ranked 124th in the world, the Wild Beasts of CAR came into the match on a winless run that stretches back to November 2018 as they looked to face a Nigeria side that has won its last four competitive fixtures on the bounce.
From the first blast of the whistle, the Super Eagles dominated the ball as they set the tone for what was to follow over the next hour and a half. There was, however, a marked lack of penetration and incision from the team ranked 38th in the world in spite of their dominance.
Nigeria got their first real chance through in-form Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, who was played in by Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo. The striker slashed wildly at the ball and sent it miles wide of the goal. Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho was next to go close as he curled a fine effort from outside the box narrowly wide of the upright before pulling up with an injury as the first half ended.
Union Berlin striker Taiwo Awoniyi was sent on by the Super Eagles at halftime and came close to opening the scoring for them just minutes after his introduction. Osimhen hit the bar from a tight angle before Nantes winger Moses Simon squared the ball for Awoniyi, whose shot was blocked heroically by a CAR defender.
The first warning sign for the Super Eagles came around the hour mark as Karl Namnganda was played in behind their defence, but the forward’s low strike was well kept out by Nigeria’s goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.
Despite intense pressure from the home side, a late foray forward saw CAR stun Nigeria by grabbing the game’s only goal with time running out. A long ball out of the defence by CAR in the 90th minute saw Nigeria’s central defensive pairing of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun fumble, allowing Namnganda to slot a fine effort beyond Nigeria’s goalkeeper to send the visiting contingent into raptures.
Nigeria’s defeat at the hands of the 124th-ranked Central African Republic was their first in the qualifying series for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and leaves them needing to win in the reverse fixture in Douala on October 10th to regain control of the group. They failed to register a single attempt on target over the course of the match and will need to work on that if they are to stand a chance of picking up a World Cup ticket.
CAR’s victory over Nigeria puts them on four points after three group games. It was also their first victory of any kind since November 2018, ending a barren streak of almost three years.