Three-time champions Super Eagles have qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations billed for Cameroon next year, after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played a goalless draw today.
The Eagles, who are set to clash with the Squirrels of Benin Republic by 5pm today, had needed just a point from their final two qualifiers to book a spot in the continent’s showpiece tournament, but the 0-0 draw in Maseru handed them a reprieve even without kicking a ball.
They battle Lesotho in their final AFCON qualifier in Lagos on Tuesday.
However, Nigeria had insist they will go for the three points when they come face to face with neighbours Benin Republic in Porto Novo on Saturday, in one of the Day 5 games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification series.
Captain Ahmed Musa had said: “It is not necessary for us to bother ourselves with what they play. Our focus is to get the three points in Porto Novo and wrap up qualification. Three points will get us to Cameroon no matter what anyone plays, and that is what we are determined to get.”
In the earlier fixture between both teams, in November 2019, the Squirrels shocked the Eagles with a goal inside the first five minutes at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, before goals by Victor Osimhen (from six yards after defender Olaoluwa Aina was upended in the box) and Samuel Kalu (after a solo run) earned the Eagles all the points at stake.
Nigeria followed up with a 4-2 defeat of Lesotho in Maseru four days later to fly to the top of the pool, but draws in their home-and-away duels with Sierra Leone a year later (the long interlude as a result of the coronavirus pandemic) prolonged celebrations of qualification and drew the sharp angle of fans’ tongues.
While the team appears to have overcome that experience and looked sharp and ready for battle in their training sessions in Lagos this week, Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr had talked of the importance of rediscovering winning mentality to go into the FIFA World Cup qualifying battles with both wings in rude shape.
“I am keen for the winning mentality; we need it very much and when we rediscover it, we must keep it.”