Nigeria’s Super Eagles produced a disappointing performance on Thursday night when they were held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Lesotho in their first group stage game of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying series.
Playing at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, the Super Eagles produced a lethargic display worthy of making the Green Eagles legends of the days of yore cringe from their graves as they barely fought back to rescue a scant point in the game.
Head coach Jose Peseiro named a largely expected starting XI with Nottingham Forest forward Taiwo Awoniyi joining Victor Boniface in attack, in the absence of Victor Osimhen. Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman was given the nod on the left with Kelechi Iheanacho starting out wide.
Lesotho’s Crocodiles almost took the lead in the 16th minute 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 Lesotho goalkeeper Sekhoane 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.
Nigeria continue their half-hearted attack in the second half and Fulham star Alex 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 to give Leslie Notsi’s wards a dream start.
Peseiro effected his first changes before the hour mark, bringing in Moses Simon and Terem Moffi for the out-of-sorts Ademola Lookman and the silenced Awoniyi.
The Eagles then equalised in the 67th minute when Semi Ajayi powered home Kelechi Iheanacho’s corner beyond the Lesotho keeper to bring real hopes of a come-from-behind win which would later turn a mirage.
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.
Nigeria XI: Uzoho; Bright Osayi-Samuel (Ola Aina 84′), Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey, Jamilu Collins (Bruno Onyemaechi 73′); Frank Onyeka (Joe Aribo 73′), Alex Iwobi; Ademola Lookman (Moses Simon 59′), Taiwo Awoniyi (Terem Moffi 59′) Victor Boniface, Kelechi Iheanacho.
Image by Sulaimon Adebayo