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How Lesotho Crocodiles upstaged Super Eagles on a rainy day in Uyo

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Crocodiles are used to land and water. That manifested on a wet evening in Uyo as the Lukeina, “Crocodiles” of Lesotho held a fancied Super Eagles to a 1-1 draw as the 2026 World Cup qualifiers get under way.

Nigeria’s attacking line of stand-in captain Kelechi Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Boniface threw stones and sticks at the opposition goal-area but an inspired goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane, also the team captain, and his rearguard foiled all the attempts and frustrated spectators at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.

The home team could have fallen behind after 16 minutes when Tsepang Seeali fired point-blank at Francis Uzoho after a poor touch in the box by Alex Iwobi, playing uncharacteristically deep at the back, released the forward who saw his effort parried by Uzoho.

At the other end, defender Jamilu Collins saw his close shot parried; Boniface headed over the sticks and Iheanacho saw a dipping shot from a 20-yard free-kick punched away by the magnificent Moerane.
Awoniyi missed Nigeria’s best chance of the first period when dragging wide a pass by Boniface in the 36th minute, and Lookman watched in shock as his left-footed belter was parried away.

In the second period, Iwobi saw his shot parried in the 52nd minute, and then three minutes later, the Crocodiles shot ahead when Uzoho failed to deal with the ball from a corner kick and Motlomelo Mkwanazi struck gold with a bullet header that sailed into the net.

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The Eagles stepped up a gear and Moerane had saved from Collins and Iheanacho watched his shot come back off the upright before Semi Ajayi nodded powerfully past the goal-tender from a corner kick by Iheanacho, for Nigeria’s leveller half-way into the second half.

There were opportunities to hit the winner from promising free-kick positions, but it ended in a stalemate and both teams took a point each from the encounter ahead of the Day 2 clashes coming up this weekend.

Nigeria will fly to the city of Butare in Rwanda to trade tackles with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Huye Stadium on Sunday.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

World Cup

Can of worms discovered in Super Eagles camp

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

All is not well at the moment with the Nigeria’s Super Eagles who have gone seven World Cup qualifying matches since November 2021 without a win.

The dwindled fortunes contrast sharply for a team noted before now as the African sides with the longest unbeaten streak in the World Cup qualifiers. At time, they were unbeaten since losing through a late goal to Angola in Luanda on 20 June 2004 till 10 November 2017 when their 1-1 draw with Algeria was converted to a 3-0 forfeiture owing to NFF featuring an unqualified player. At  the time, Super Eagles had raked 35 unbeaten run. At another time from 2012 to 2013, the team had an unbeaten run of 18 matches from 3 June 2012  when they beat Namibia 1-0 in Calabar to 21 June 2013 when they were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in a FIFA Confederations match in Brazil.

 Yet the same outfit has turned laborious after losing its flairs. A source close to Finidi George told Sports Village Square that the coach complained that the NFF just heaped all the blames of the team’s current precarious situation on him while exonerating the players.  

  He also reportedly remarked that the NFF did nothing to mobilise crowd support for the Super Eagles in the back-breaking encounter with Benin Republic in Abidjan despite the presence of large Nigerian community in the Ivorian commercial capital city.

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 A Benin Republic sports journalist confirmed this to Sports Village Square. The journalist remarked that it was true that there “were not many Nigerians at the Félix Houphouet Boigny stadium even though Nigeria has a strong community in the Ivory Coast.  I see that the defeat against the Republic of Benin really hurts.”

  Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, the President General of the Nigeria Football and other Sports Supporters’ Club (NFSP) had earlier made the same assertion on the neglect of crowd mobilisation for the Super Eagles and that those who made it to Uyo and had auto accident on their way back were not even given a mention by the NFF.

 He had since 1991 established the first of the international cells of the supporters club. They were not mobilised for the game against Benin Republic.

 On players attitude, a member of the NFF confirmed that the Super Eagles camp in Uyo was loose as players went to camp with their girl friends.

 That could also explain their dismal forms in the back-to-back destiny shaping encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.

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BREAKING! Finidi George formally resigns

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Nigeria Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George has resigned from his post as Super Eagles’ coach, two days after the Nigeria Football Federation announced it was going to employ a foreign technical adviser.

A source close to Finidi told Sports Village Square that Finidi sent his resignation letter to Ibrahim Gusau “3o minutes ago.”

 Finidi was said to be livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they didi nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to come out to support the Super Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

“He complained that the NFF heaped all the blames on him”, said the source.

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  Calls to NFF officials to verify the information were not answered.  

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World Cup

UPDATE: NFF may spare Finidi George

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Under fire Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George may excape sack afterall. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) told Sports Village Square that Finidi may not be sacked.

 He would however work under the foreign technical adviser that the football governing body is planning to hire in the next few weeks.

  The source who was privy to the Wednesday’s ‘hybrid mode’ meeting of the NFF informed that Finidi George will be designated as ‘Chief Coach’ while the expatriate will be the technical adviser.

It is however unclear how the NFF will foot the wage bill of the technical adviser, who may also come with his personal crew as Finidi George  also already have his own foreign assistants.

There is also no word on the loud absence of Daniel Amokachi who was designated as Finidi George’s assistant, but failed to show up at the Super Eagles’ camp leading to the ill-fated World Cup match day 3 and 4 encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.  

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