BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Neighbours, Benin Republic and Nigeria will be engaged in an Africa Cup of Nations qualification match this Saturday. Sports Village Square hereby presents some amazing facts ahead of the encounter.
- The Nigerian national team travelled by sea to Benin Republic for the match. It was the first time in 72 years that a Nigerian team made a sea voyage for a match. The first was on 16 August 1949 when the then UK Tourists boarded the RMSS Apapa to Liverpool and played their first international match in Sierra Leone on 8 October 1949 on their return sea voyage.
- The Super Eagles will be seeking their first victory in 497 days since they beat Lesotho 4-2 in Maseru in 2019. They have since gone four matches without a win, including throwing away a four-goal first have lead against Sierra Leone at home.
- Nigeria were the opponents of Benin Republic (then called Dahomey) when they played their first ever international match on 8 November 1959.
- Porto Novo, the venue of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match on Saturday was also the venue of the first ever Benin versus Nigeria match on 8 November 1959.
- Saturday’s match will be 21st encounter of both teams.
- Benin Republic have never beaten the Super Eagles of Nigeria. In 20 preceding matches, Nigeria won 15 and drew five.
- In total, Nigeria have scored 55 goals against Benin Republic. The scorer of the very first of the goals is Albert Onyeawuna in a Nigerian 1-0 triumph in Porto Novo in 1959.
- Both teams will qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, even before firing any shot if Sierra Leone fail to win the corresponding Group L match against Lesotho in Maseru. That match kicks off three hours to that of Benin versus Nigeria and would certainly be concluded except other factors creep in.
- Nigeria will be attempting their 19th appearance at the African premier football competition as against Benin Republic who have had just four appearances.
- It was against Benin Republic (then Dahomey) that Nigeria recorded their biggest win, a 10-1 victory on 29 November 1959.
- Nigeria’s first ever scorer of a hat trick is Abudu Buraimoh and it was in the 29 November 1959 match against Benin Republic. Elkanah Onyeali followed up in that same match by scoring four goals in the Nigerian 10-1 triumph.
- Nigeria have on Valentine date (14 February) beaten Benin Republic with magical 7-0 win. That was in 1977. They followed up with another 7-0 win on 14 January 1978.
- Retired Nigeria mesmerizing left winger, Adokiye Amiesimaka made his international debut while still being an undergraduate at the University of Lagos in a match against Benin Republic on 14 February 1977.
- Nigeria Professional League first top scorer, Ishaya Jatau scored his only international goal in a 1990 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Benin Republic in Cotonou on 30 September 1990.
- It was a Benin versus Nigeria match that ended the unbroken field appearances of Joseph Yobo in the Africa Cup of Nations matches from 2002 to 2010. Before the match of 16 January 2010 in Benguela, Angola, Yobo had played every of Nigeria’s 23 consecutive AFCON matches. It was in the 24th match which was against Benin Republic that he got injured in the 55th minute and had to be replaced by Onyekachi Apam.
- Over a decade ago, there existed ‘the other Super Eagles’ in Benin Republic as scores of their internationals were actually Nigerians. They included Muri Ogunbiyi, a native of Otta in Ogun State, Jonas Oketola, Emmanuel Fabiyi, Razak Omotoyossi, Babatounde Bello, Moussa Latounji and Wasiou Oladikpikpo among others.