Flashback: Strengths and weaknesses of Nigeria’s possible World Cup playoff opponents

Flashback: Strengths and weaknesses of Nigeria’s possible World Cup playoff opponents
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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

By being among the top five African countries in the last monthly ranking conducted by Fifa, the Super Eagles have avoided four of the toughest possible opponents in the play off for the Qatar 2022 holding in March next year.

The tough teams Nigeria have avoided are Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

But that is not to say that the other five teams in the playoff are easy takes. The Super Eagles will face one of the following: Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and DR Congo.

All the same, none of the five potential home-and-away opponents of Nigeria is an easy take. They are all tricky sides. Sports Village Square analyse each of them.

Egypt

The Pharaohs of Egypt belong to the class of super powers in the continent. Their record speaks clear.

Currently ranked number 44 in the world and sixth in the continent, they are the most successful African sides in the African Cup of Nations, having won a record seven times.

Paradoxically, their records in the World Cup belie their strength in the continent. Despite being the first African country to feature in the World Cup, they have only featured three times in 21 editions.

They seem to be afflicted when it comes to the World Cup. They have never made a back-to-back appearance at the World Cup.They  hold the record for the longest gap between two appearances and the oldest player to have ever played at the World Cup.  

After their first appearance in 1934, they have to wait for 56 years before another appearance at Italia ’90.

From Italia ’90, it took another 28 years before they qualified for Russia 2018. Will another ten of years elapsed before another World Cup qualification?

Poor historical background may be their sole disadvantage. But the strength of the team with which Nigeria will open their Africa Cup of Nations 2021 with is immense.

Nigerian teams have traditionally been poor travellers to Egypt and have never defeated the country in their territory.

Now under Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz who led Portugal to defeat Nigeria at the Under 20 World Cup in 1989, Egypt boast of key players like  Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, Ahmed Hegazi and Mohamed El Shennawi.

If drawn against Egypt, the Super Eagles will do well to make the result a manageable one in the first leg with the hope of finishing up in Nigeria.

Nigeria-Egypt Head-to-Head

P        W        D        L        F        A

Egypt    20       7         7          6       33       27

Nigeria  20       6         7          7        27       33

  • 13 Dec. 1959 (OQ.) Nigeria 2-6 Egypt
  • 1 Jan. 1960 (OQ.) Egypt 3-0 Nigeria
  • 29 Nov. 1960 (F) Nigeria 1-2 Egypt
  • 24 Nov. 1963 (ACN) Egypt 6-3 Nigeria
  • 14 Jan. 1973 (2AAG) Nigeria 4-2 Egypt
  • 14 Mar. 1976 (ACN) Nigeria 3-2 Egypt
  • 8 Oct. 1977 (WCq) Nigeria 4-0    Egypt
  • 21 Oct. 1977 (WCq) Egypt 3-1   Nigeria
  • 15 Mar. 1980 (ACN) Nigeria 1-0 Egypt
  • 18 Feb. 1983 (F) Nigeria 0-0 Egypt
  • 20 Feb. 1983 (F) Nigeria 1-1 Egypt
  • 14 Mar. 1984 (ACN) Egypt 2-2 Nigeria *(7 – 8 penalty shoot-out).
  • 20 Mar. 1988 (ACN) Egypt 0-0 Nigeria
  • 5 Mar. 1990 (ACN) Egypt 0-1   Nigeria
  • 30 Mar. 1994 (ACN) Egypt 0-0 Nigeria
  • 25 Nov. 2002 (F) Nigeria 1- 1   Egypt
  • 12 Jan. 2010 (ACN) Egypt 3-1   Nigeria
  • 25 Mar.  2016 (ACNq) Nigeria 1-1 Egypt
  • 29 Mar. 2016 (ANCq) Egypt 1-0 Nigeria
  • 26 Mar. 2019 (F) Nigeria 1-0 Egypt
  • 11 Jan. 2022 (ACN) Nigeria 1-0 Egypt

Ghana

Ghana Black Stars are one of the underperformed teams of the on-going Africa Cup of Nations and crashed out at the group stage. They have been long time rivals of the Nigerian national sides even in the colonial era. Fixtures with Ghana, although lately latent, command high tension.

The Black Stars have been early football superpowers in Africa and were the first to win eternally, a trophy for the Africa Cup of Nations following their hattrick achieved in the 1963, 1965 and the 1978 editions. They followed up with a fourth title in 1982.

But like Egypt, they have not had good runs in the qualification for the World Cup.  

But they are perhaps the African sides with the nearest opportunity of getting into a World Cup semi-finals before their dream run in the 2010 was punctuated by poor marksmanship from the penalty spot.

Currently ranked 52 in the world seventh in Africa they boast of top players like  Andrew Ayew, Jordan Ayew and Thomas Partey.

Nigeria have played more matches with Ghana more than with any other country. The pendulum however skewed in favour of Ghana.

Eternal rivalry will play a key factor if the Super Eagles are drawn to play Ghana in the World Cup qualifying playoff.

They are the team against which Nigeria played their first ever World Cup qualifying match on 28 August 1960. Nigeria lost the match 4-1 in Accra.

They have had to meet at the World Cup qualifying series for the 1970, 1974 and 2002 editions.

Nigeria-Ghana Head-to-Head

P        W        D        L        F        A

Ghana   57      19        19       16       87       62

Nigeria  57      16        19       22       62       87

  • 20 Oct.1951 (JalcoCup) Nigeria 5-0 Ghana
  • 11 Oct.1953 (JalcoCup) Ghana 1-0 Nigeria
  • 30 Oct.1954 (JalcoCup) Nigeria 3-0 Ghana
  • 30 Oct.1955 (JalcoCup) Ghana 7-0 Nigeria
  • 27Oct.1956 (JalcoCup) Nigeria 3-0 Ghana
  • 27 Oct.1957 (JalcoCup) Ghana 3 -3 Nigeria
  • 25 Oct.1958 (JalcoCup) Nigeria 3-2 Ghana
  • 10 Oct. 1959 (OQ.) Nigeria 3 -1   Ghana
  • 26 Oct. 1959 (OQ.) Ghana 4-1   Nigeria
  • 22 Nov.1959 (JalcoCup) Ghana 5 -2 Nigeria
  • 28 Aug. 1960 (WCq) Ghana 4-1    Nigeria
  • 10 Sept. 1960 (WCq) Nigeria 2 -2 Ghana
  • 9Oct.1960 (Nkrumah Cup) Nigeria 0-3 Ghana
  • 29 Oct.1960 (Zik Cup) Nigeria 1-1 Ghana
  • 8 April. 1961 (ACNq) Nigeria 0 -0 Ghana
  • 30 Apr. 1961 (ACNq) Ghana 2-2 Nigeria
  • 17 Dec. 1961 (F) Ghana 5 -1 Nigeria
  • 10 Nov.1962 (F) Nigeria 0 -0 Ghana
  • 23 Feb.1963 (Nkrumah Cup) Ghana 5-0 Nigeria
  • 30 Oct.1965 (Zik Cup) Nigeria 0-4 Ghana
  • 7 Nov.1965 (Zik Cup) Ghana 3-0 Nigeria
  • 28 Jan.1967 (Zik Cup) Nigeria 2-2 Ghana
  • 12 Feb.1967 (Zik Cup) Ghana 2-0 Nigeria
  • 22 Oct.1967 (Zik Cup)  Ghana 2-1 Nigeria
  • 23 Dec1967 (Zik Cup) Nigeria 2 -2 Ghana
  • 10 May 1969 (WCq) Nigeria 2-1 Ghana
  • 18 May 1969 (WCq) Ghana 1-1 Nigeria
  • 8 Jan.1973 (2AAG.) Nigeria 4-2 Ghana
  • 10 Feb. 1973 (WCq) Nigeria 2-3 Ghana *Awarded 2- 0 to Ghana
  • 25 Feb. 1973 (WCq) Ghana 0-0 Nigeria
  • 11 Aug. 1974 (Festival) Nigeria 1-1 Ghana
  • 17 Aug. 1974 (Festival) Nigeria 0-1 Ghana
  • 24 Aug1975 (Festival) Ghana 1-2 Nigeria
  • 30 Aug.1975 (Festival) Ghana 3-0 Nigeria
  • 4 Sept.1977 (Ecowas) Nigeria 2-1 Ghana
  • 8 Mar. 1978 (ACN)    Ghana 1-1 Nigeria
  • 21 July 1978 (3AAG) Ghana 0-0 Nigeria
  • 1 May1983 (ECA.anniv) Ghana1-0 Nigeria
  • 15 Oct. 1983 (OQ.)   Nigeria 0 -0 Ghana
  • 30 Oct. 1983 (OQ.)    Ghana 1-2 Nigeria
  • 5 March 1984(ACN) Ghana 1-2 Nigeria
  • 27 Jul. 1986 (F)  Ghana 2 -0 Nigeria
  • 2 Sept.1990 (ACNq)   Ghana 1-0 Nigeria
  • 13 April 1991 (ACNq) Nigeria 0-0 Ghana
  • 23 Jan. 1992 (ACN)    Ghana 2-1 Nigeria
  • 9 March 1994 (F)   Nigeria 0-0 Ghana
  • 28 Aug. 1999 (F)   Nigeria 0-0 Ghana
  • 11 Mar. 2001(WCq) Ghana 0-0 Nigeria
  • 29 Jul.2001 (WCq)   Nigeria 3-0 Ghana
  • 3 Feb. 2002 (ACN)   Ghana 0-1 Nigeria
  • 15 Dec. 2002 (F)   Ghana 0-1 Nigeria
  • 30 May 2003 (LG Cup) Nigeria 3-1 Ghana
  • 23 Jan. 2006 (ACN)    Ghana 0-1 Nigeria
  • 6 Feb 2007 (F)  Ghana 4-1 Nigeria
  • 3 Feb 2008 (ACN) Ghana 2-1 Nigeria
  • 28 Jan. 2010 (ACN) Ghana 1-0 Nigeria
  • 11 Oct. 2011 (F) Ghana 0-0 Nigeria

Cameroon

Although in head-to-head confrontations, Nigeria have edge over Cameroon, no match-up with the Indomitable Lions is ever considered an easy one. Until the 4 June 2021 defeat of the Super Eagles in a friendly match, the Nigerian side had had a three-decade of not losing any match in regulation time to Cameroon.

One of the biggest wins over Cameroon was in the qualifying series for the 2018 World Cup when the Indomitable Lions crumbled miserably in a 4-0 defeat in Uyo.

But the team had since regained their composure and are considered one of the most dreaded sides on the continent.  

Besides, they were the first African sides to scale the group stage in the World Cup when they got to the quarter finals at Italia ‘90.

With seven appearances at the World Cup, they ranked among the most frequent African teams at the global event.

Nigeria-Cameroon Head-to-Head

P      W     D    L    F        A

Nigeria      24      14    6     4     41      21

Cameroon 24      4      6    14   21      41

  • 8 Dec.1962 (Nkrumah ) Nigeria3-1 Cameroon
  • 1 Jan.1963 (Nkrumah) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
  • 22 July 1966 (F) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
  • 7 Dec.1968 (WCq) Nigeria 1-1Cameroon    
  • 22Dec.1968 (WCq) Cameroon 2-3 Nigeria
  • 13 Feb.1972 (F) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria    
  • 22 Jan. 1975 (F) Nigeria 1-0   Cameroon
  • 2 Feb. 1980 (F) Nigeria 0 -0 Cameroon
  • 18 Mar.1984 (ACN) Cameroon3-1 Nigeria
  • 17 Mar. 1988(ACN) Cameroon 1-1Nigeria
  • 27 Mar.1988 (ACN) Cameroon 1-0 Nigeria
  • 10 June1989 (WCq) Nigeria 2-0 Cameroon
  • 27 Aug.1989 (WCq) Cameroon 1-0Nigeria
  • 25 Jan.1992 (ACN) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
  • 7 Aug.1997 (LGCup) Cameroon 0-1Nigeria
  • Feb.2000 (ACN) Nigeria 2-2 Cameroon *(3-4 penalty-shootout).
  • 1June2003 (LGCup)Nigeria 3-0 Cameroon *aet
  • Feb.2004 (ACN) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
  • 11 Oct. 2015 (F) Nigeria 3-0 Cameroon
  • 1 Sept. 2017 (WCq) Nigeria 4-0 Cameroon
  • 4 Sept. 2017 (WCq) Cameroon 1-1 Nigeria
  • 6 July 2019 (CAN) Nigeria 3-2 Cameroon
  • 4 June 2021 (F) Cameroon 1-0 Nigeria
  • 8 June 2021(F) Cameroon 0-0 Nigeria

Mali

Of the 10 group leaders now in the playoff for the World Cup qualification, Mali are the only sides without any previous appearance at the World Cup.

They are however one of the tricky teams in West Africa that can not be easily waved aside.

Despite being in the same subcontinent region with Nigeria, fixtures with Mali are rare. But Sports Village Square recalls that the Lagos National Stadium was opened with a 3-0 defeat of Mali on 4 December 1972.

Nigeria and Mali have met only nine times. The Malians were the Super Eagles’ stepping stone into the final match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations which the team won.

They were previously coached by Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi. Mali are number 54 in the world and ninth in Africa by the current Fifa ranking. Their star players include: Kalifa Coulibaly, Moussa Djenepo and Amadou Haidara.

Nigeria-Mali Head-to-Head

P        W        D        L        F        A

Nigeria   9         5         3         1     14          5

Mali        9         1         3         5     5           14

  • 22 Nov. 1972 (F)  Mali 2 -1 Nigeria
  • 4 Dec. 1972 (F)    Nigeria 3-0 Mali
  • 14 Jul. 1978 (3AAG) Mali 1-3 Nigeria   
  • 18 Dec. 1983 (WAFU) Nigeria 0 -0 Mali * (4-5 penalty shoot-out).
  • 24 Jan. 2002 (ACN)     Mali 0 -0 Nigeria
  • 9 Feb. 2002 (ACN)     Mali 0-1 Nigeria
  • 3 Feb. 2004 (ACN)      Mali 1-2 Nigeria  
  • 25 Jan. 2008 (ACN)      Mali 0-0 Nigeria
  • 6 Feb. 2013 (ACN)      Mali 1-4 Nigeria

DR Congo

Of the 10 group leaders now in the playoff for the World Cup qualification, DR Congo are the only sides outside the top 10 in the continent where they place 12th behind Burkina Faso and South Africa.

No nation in the continent has changed names more than DR Congo that had previously been called Congo Kinshasa, later Zaire and since 1996, DR Congo.

In the past, Congo DR have been ranked as high as 28 in the FIFA rankings. When they qualified for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, they became the first Sub-Saharan African team to feature at global event.

Sports Village Square however recalls that they are the African sides with the most scandalous result when they crumbled 9-0 to the then Yugoslavia.

Should the Super Eagles be drawn against them, it will be a tricky match-up. Nigeria won their first Africa Cup of Nations match beating the then Zaire 4-2 in a Group match at Ethiopia 1976.

Fixtures of Nigeria and DR Congo is rare. They have met just nine times. But results have always been in favour of Nigeria. The Congolese however broke the apparent myth surrounding Nigeria’s matches on 8 October when they beat the Super Eagles 2-0 in Belgium in 2016.

Before then, Nigeria never lost a game on a 8 October date which is also the anniversary of Nigeria’s  first international match and also, the first  time the country qualified for the World Cup (8 October 1993).

Nigeria DR Congo Head-to-Head

P        W        D        L        F        A

Nigeria        9         5         1         3        16       14

DR Congo   9         3         1         5         14       16

  • 5 Nov.1966 (F) Nigeria 3-2 DR Congo
  • 27 Nov. 1966 (F) DR Congo 1-0 Nigeria
  • 13 Dec. 1969 (F) DR Congo   5-0 Nigeria
  • 1Mar.1976 (ACN) DR Congo 2-4 Nigeria
  • 19 Jan1992 (ACN) DR Congo 0 -1 Nigeria
  • 2 April1994 (ACN) DR Congo 0-2 Nigeria
  • 3 Mar. 2010 (F) Nigeria 5-2 DR Congo
  • 8 Oct. 2015 (F) DR Congo 2-0 Nigeria
  • 28 May 2018 (F) Nigeria 1-1 DR Congo

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