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Nigeria’s disastrous home collapse defines AFCON international break

The reaction to Nigeria's latest international football excursions has not been kind. Social media was abuzz with posts of displeasure following a disappointing double-header against Sierra Leone (SL) in Group L of African Cup of Nations qualifying. Nigeria held a commanding position in the group before this break with two wins from two putting them…

Another game, another draw… Super Eagles must get at least a draw against Benin Republic in March next year to qualify for Cameroun 2021 AFCON.

The reaction to Nigeria’s latest international football excursions has not been kind. Social media was abuzz with posts of displeasure following a disappointing double-header against Sierra Leone (SL) in Group L of African Cup of Nations qualifying.

Nigeria held a commanding position in the group before this break with two wins from two putting them top. Winners of the competition in 2013, a fallow period followed in which they missed out on back-to-back tournaments (2015 and 2017) before ending that drought with an appearance at the 2019 finals, where they reached the semi-final stage.

Without meaning to be disrespectful to SL, Benin or Lesotho, it had been anticipated that Nigeria would get through this group comfortably. German coach Gernot Rohr has a selection of brilliant players at his disposal, an emerging generation of Nigerian starlets that could make a cynic patriotic.

The expectation was that they could sail through qualification in style. The third game of the qualifying stage gave early indications that they both could and would do this. Nigeria lined out in the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.

Their opponents, Sierra Leone, had failed to win either of their opening two games, scoring one goal across the pair of fixtures. After merely four minutes, the home side was in front. Ahmed Musa, once of CSKA Moscow and Leicester City but now unattached, played with the freedom of his transfer status, firing past a hapless visiting defence.

It was the type of finish that could have put him in the shop window. However, he was not the goalscoring star for long. Soon, many of his colleagues would get on the scoresheet to share the headlines.

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen doubled the lead after 21 minutes, Everton winger Alex Iwobi got Nigeria’s third six minutes later and Villarreal midfielder Samuel Chukwueze hit a fourth two minutes after that kick-off. Rampant after half an hour, it looked as though Nigeria would run up a cricket score. Instead, they choked. Kwame Quee pulled one back for the visitors four minutes before half-time. This would be the foundation for a stunning comeback after the break.

Alhaji Kamara got a second for SL in the 72nd minute. This was when Nigeria began to sweat. The idea of allowing this huge lead to slip was clearly weighing heavily on the minds of the players. By the time a third SL goal flew in through Mustapha Bundu in the 80th minute, you knew that Nigeria had blown it, that Kamara’s equalising goal was always going to come four minutes from time.

Once again, Nigeria was the laughing stock of AFCON qualifying. Those looking for a fired-up reaction to this disastrous collapse would have been sad to see the reverse fixture take place on a glorified farm, which is how one could describe the poor state of SL’s National Stadium pitch. With a five-point lead over third-placed SL with two games to go, Nigeria’s passage to the finals looks assured but they face a battle with Benin, one point behind, for the top spot.

The Super Eagles travel there for a tricky fixture in the next international break in March 2021. Make sure you stay up to date with the latest news and statistics relevant to games involving Nigeria and other major football teams by visiting the football betting tips section of Sporty Trader. Their betting tipsters find the best odds and most important stats for all the top games and competitions.