Nigeria Faces Setback with Consecutive Draws in World Cup Qualifiers
On Sunday, Nigeria faced its second consecutive draw in World Cup qualifying, this time against Zimbabwe, resulting in a 1-1 stalemate. Kelechi Iheanacho’s late equalizer salvaged a point for the Super Eagles in a match where both teams struggled to secure a victory.
In the 26th minute, Zimbabwe, hosting games in Rwanda due to a lack of suitable stadiums at home, took the lead with a stunning 30-yard free-kick by forward Walter Musona. Despite Nigeria’s pedigree, Zimbabwe dominated the first half, displaying confidence in ball possession and solid defense.
Nigeria rallied in the second half, and Leicester forward Iheanacho, a second-half substitute, leveled the score in the 67th minute with a clinical finish inside the box, assisted by captain Moses Simon.
Both teams opened their World Cup qualifying campaigns with consecutive draws. Zimbabwe drew 0-0 away to Rwanda, while Nigeria was unexpectedly held to a 1-1 draw at home by Lesotho. The results leave both teams with two points in Group C, one point behind leader South Africa, who has a game in hand.
The slow start to Nigeria’s qualifying campaign raises concerns for Coach José Peseiro, who faced criticism after the draw with Lesotho. Nigeria, having missed the last World Cup in Qatar in 2022, aims to qualify for the expanded 2026 tournament in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Despite the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with nine African teams qualifying directly, Peseiro faces mounting pressure. The 63-year-old Portuguese coach must navigate challenges to secure Nigeria’s spot, with a 10th team potentially making the field through an intercontinental playoff.
In Group G, Mozambique suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Algeria, while in Group F, Gabon secured a 2-1 victory over Burundi in other World Cup qualifying matches.