NIGERIA’S Super Eagles have taken another big step towards qualifying for Qatar 2002 after a makeshift team depleted by a variety of Covid-19 complications managed to steal a 2-1 win away to Cape Verde this evening.
Last Friday, Nigeria kicked off her World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Liberia in Lagos but after that things looked bleak. Seven British-based players had to leave camp in fulfilment of the agreement between their clubs and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) barring them from featuring in today’s World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde.
Cape Verde is on the UK’s red list of countries at high risk from Covid-19, meaning that anyone who travels there must isolate for 10 days upon return. As a result, the English and Scottish clubsides with Nigerian players had insisted that their wards return to their bases after the home game against Liberia.
Among the players who left camp after the Liberia game include Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City, Oghenekaro Etebo and William Troost-Ekong of Watford, Alex Iwobi of Everton and Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo of Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers. Frank Onyeka of Brentford and Emmanuel Dennis of Watford were dropped at the last minute from the original list of 30 invited players, so are not affected by the decision.
To make matter worse, of the 21 players still in camp, Samuel Kalu and Tyronne Ebuehi did not travel to Cape Verde after they tested positive for coronavirus following a medical check-up of all squad members. Despite all this adversity, however, the Eagles still managed to pick up all three points in Cape Verde, coming from behind to win 2-1.
Dylan Tavares put the hosts ahead after 19 minutes despite the fact that Nigeria dominated possession in the early stages, cashing home on a goalkeeping blunder when he beat Maduka Okoye at his near post. After going behind, however, Nigeria regained her composure forcing the issue and Cape Verde goalkeeper Vezinha was fortunate to stop a Chidera Ejuke effort from the edge of the area after 27 minutes.
However, in the 29th minute, Victor Osimhen found the equaliser latching on to a woeful clearance in the Cape Verdian defence to score from close range. Despite Nigerian pressure, both sides went into the break level, with Cape Verde fortunate not to concede a penalty after Chigozie Awazien was fouled in the area.
After the break, Nigeria enjoyed more possession but without posing a real threat to their hosts, who sat back depending on counter attacks. However, Nigeria took the lead after 76 minutes after defender Kenny Rocha Santos tried to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper but it wronged-footed Vezinha in goal and crossed the goal line to give the Super Eagles the lead.
Nigeria now leads Group C with six points from two games and in October will face Central African Republic home and away. If the Eagles win both games, they will have qualified for the next stage of the tournament that will involve a two-legged knock-out tie against another group winner in what will be a real stern test.
Chidera Ejike (Zaidu Sanusi)
Ahmed Musa (Henry Onyekuru)
Victor Osimhen (Paul Onuachu)
Moses Simon (Terem Moffi)