"We Must Keep Fighting" Says Finidi George After Super Eagles 2-1 Defeat To Benin In The 2026 CAF World Cup Qualifiers.

  • There is a real possibility Nigeria will not play at the 2026 World Cup.
  • The Super Eagles are yet to win a single game in the CAF 2026 World Cup qualifiers after three draws and one lost in four matches.
  • Nigeria's chances of qualifying for the world biggest sporting event are no longer in their hands as they will need 'favours' from other teams to d so.

The quest to play at the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, USA and Canada is in real danger for the Super Eagles following a devastating 2-1 defeat to Benin Republic on Monday evening.

Despite Benin being the official home team, the game took place in a neutral ground at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Abidjan which is not a strange place for the Super Eagles as they played three of their seven AFCON 2023 games in that stadium including the final which they lost 2-1 in February to the host nation Ivory Coast.

Coach Finidi George made three changes to the Super Eagles starting XI that drew 1-1 to South Africa last Friday. The injured Fisayo Dele-Bashiru was replaced by Club Brugge’s Raphael Onyedika; Terem Moffi started ahead of Paul Onuachu; and Samuel Chukwueze came in for Kelechi Iheanacho.

Nigeria started the game brightly, constantly attacking their opponent defence. They looked dominant in the first 20 minutes of the game and after several chances at goal.

The three-time African champions came close to scoring in the 13th minute after a brilliant effort from Bright Osayi-Samuel.

They eventually broke the deadlock with a sublime finish from Club Brugge midfielder Raphael Onyedika who fired a curling shot past Marcel Dandjinou in the 27th minute after being set up by AC Milan forward Samuel Chukwueze.

The Super Eagles lead lasted only eight minutes, as Jodel Dossou pounced on a loose control ball from Calvin Bassey to slot a cooly shot past the on-rushing Stanley Nwabali in the 37th minute as he levels things up for the Cheetahs.

A few seconds before half-time Gernot Rohr’s side shocked the Super Eagles with a wicked delivery from the corner kick spot which was poorly cleared by Onyedika, as Benin Republic’s 14-goal talisman, Steve Mounie, was instinctively positioned as he pounced on the loose ball to give the hosts the lead.

Finidi was forced to make early second-half changes as he brought on two strikers, Paul Onuachu and Victor Boniface for Terem Moffi and Alex Iwobi. 

The former Enyimba's coach enforced more changes around the hour mark when he brought on Remo Star’s Saduq Ismail and Rizespor’s Ibrahim Olawoyin and took off Chukwueze and Bright Osayi-Samuel.

Nigeria pressed for an urgent equaliser but continued to lack fluency in the final third, as the tactical genius of Gernot Rohr and his stubborn defence held on for a famous victory.

The defeat to Benin leaves the Super Eagles winless after four World Cup qualifying games.

Nigeria were held to a 1-1 home draw by Lesotho in their Group C opener, before coming from behind to draw again with Zimbabwe in their second match.

Between those matches and Friday’s 1-1 draw with South Africa in Uyo, Jose Peseiro left his role as head coach and was replaced by Finidi George.

The Super Eagles needed to beat the Cheetahs to keep their World Cup qualification dreams alive after the three consecutive draws left them fifth on the log. 

Despite lost go Benin, they still remain fifth in Group C with three points, that's four points away from the top which could become five if Lesotho beat Rwanda. Nigeria could also be relegated to the bottom of the table if Zimbabwe gets positive results against South Africa on Tuesday, June 11.

Last Thursday, June 6, Benin defeated Rwanda 1-0 to register their first win. They are now top with seven points after their second win against Nigeria.

The three-time African champions now risk missing out on consecutive World Cups for the first time since their first outing in 1994.

The last time the Super Eagles featured in the tournament was in 2018.

Speaking on the disappointing defeat, Finidi challenged his players not to throw in the towel at this stage; “There’s no special formula to win; we have to see how the players will start a new season now and see how we can get the best out of the players... He Said.

“Everybody must be committed and I believe with commitment we will win games. I believe we are going to win games and if we can win games, the battle will still be there.

“We can’t throw in the towel because we’ve had only three points, we have to find a way to get these players back in a way for them to perform.”

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