The Super Eagles of Nigeria survived an intense battle against the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde to qualify for the final round of the African qualifying series for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.
Before the start, the three-time African champions led the Group C table with 12 points, with the visitors at 10, both had a chance to reach the final round and that gave the contest high importance.
Napoli forward, Victor Osimhen scored the Super Eagles’ only goal and then worked assiduously at the fore and elsewhere to ensure Nigeria got the ticket, and in the process picked up both the Man-of-the-Match and Most Valuable Player awards.
Nigeria got the best possible start when Victor Osimhen lashed in off a defensive mistake by Roberto Lopes after an in-swinger by Moses Simon caught the visitors’ rearguard napping.
Osimhen admits the Blue sharks had a good game and that makes the draw a valuable result for the Super Eagles.
“It is good for us. The first leg wasn’t easy, we know they have qualified players in their team and it’s important for us to be on top of our game to get this sort of result to qualify for the final round and I’m really happy about this,” the former Lille striker stated.
But the lead was speedily erased when at the other end, William Ekong needlessly conceded a corner kick and then stood flat-footed as Stopyra connected to beat a flailing Maduka Okoye. This was in the 6th minute.
Four minutes later, Alex Iwobi’s shot was powerless to trouble goalkeeper Josimar Dias, and in the 24th minute, Leon Balogun’s header from a corner kick flew away from goal.
Joe Aribo could have scored but his shots in the 26th and 30th minutes narrowly missed the target.
In the 33rd minute, returnee forward Odion Ighalo should have scored with a free header as the inspired Osimhen found him with a pullout, but the wall went narrowly over.
In the second half, the Blue Sharks, realizing they needed to score to advance at the expense of the Super Eagles, piled the pressure and came close on a few occasions, but Nigeria held on and were able to keep things tight at the rear to reach the final round of the series, scheduled for March next year.
Coach Rohr, as expected, praised his team and described the draw as a valuable win for the Eagles.
“It was a good match, we had a draw that looks like a victory today. Some people were scared so we don’t have the same scenario like Portugal. We did very well and defended very well. We have qualified for the next phase of the qualifiers, we can continue to dream,” Rohr concluded.