Nigeria Begin 2026 World Cup Qualifiers On Shaky Note, Draw Lowly-Lesotho At Home

Nigeria’s dreams of a World Cup return started on a shaky footing with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to minnows Lesotho. 

After losing the ticket to the 2022 edition to eternal rivals Ghana, the Super Eagles began their 2026 World Cup qualifiers campaign on a stuttering note against the low-rated Crocodiles in front of a boisterous home crowd.
Lesotho – ranked 153rd globally; 113 below Nigeria – took the lead in the 56th minute against the run of play at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on Thursday.
But 11 minutes later, defender Semi Ajayi rose to the occasion to power a header past the Crocodiles’ goalkeeper, sending the roaring home crowd into raptures.
The Super Eagles enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession in the Group C game but a combination of wasteful finishing and defensive heroics from the South African side made the job tough for Nigeria.

Coach Jose Peseiro’s men pressed their opponents and could have taken the lead in the 36th minute. But Nottingham Forests’ Taiwo Awoniyi wasted a brilliant cutback from Victor Boniface, kicking the ball inches away from goal.
About eight minutes later, Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman’s shot was tipped over the bar by the Lesotho goalkeeper while Boniface’s downward header at the stroke of halftime posed no issues to the goaltender.

While the first half ended goalless, Nigeria resumed the game with more urgency. But against the run of play, Motlomelo Mkhwanaz etched his name in Lesotho’s football folklore with his 56th-minute strike – the country’s first shot on target in the encounter.
With a shocking home defeat on the horizon, the Super Eagles rallied to level hostilities. But the equaliser came from an unlikely source. Semi Ajayi towered above the Lesotho defenders and headed home in the 67th minute.

Having 13 minutes left to play, Nigeria surged forward in search of a goal. Their efforts, however, failed as the Crocodiles defended gallantly to earn a historic point against one of Africa’s most decorated teams.
On Sunday, the Super Eagles, however, have a chance to get their campaign back on track when they face Zimbabwe in their second clash of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
Earlier, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, who are also in Group C of the qualification campaign, drew goalless. South Africa will take on Benin Republic in the same lot on Saturday.