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2026 World Cup: Nigeria’s fading hope dims again as Cheetahs defeat Super Eagles 2-1

Nigeria’s fading hope of returning to the FIFA World Cup at the 2026 edition in the Americas got a massive blow yesterday when the Super Eagles fell to a 2-1 defeat by Benin Republic in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

It was the lowest the Super Eagles have sunk in recent times, gaining only three points from four matches in a Group C that has such teams as South Africa, Lesotho, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Benin Republic.

Not many pundits expected the Eagles to struggle against the supposed minnows in African football, but in four games, the Finidi George boys have drawn three against Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa with yesterday’s defeat by Gernot Rohr’s Cheetahs the hardest blow of them all.

Before the game, many optimists had expected Super Eagles to beat the Cheetahs in Abidjan, seen as a neutral ground, to relaunch their bid for a return to the World Cup after missing the 2022 edition in Qatar.

The team seemed on their way to doing just that when Raphael Onyedika gave Nigeria the lead in the 28th minute. But the Cheetahs dimmed such hopes when they swooped on the Nigerians and promptly got the equaliser in the 37th minute Oluwafemi Doussou.

The Beninoise sank the dagger deeper into Nigerians’ hearts three minutes into added time through Steven Mounie.

Coach Finidi George in what looked like a panic move introduced five players with Paul Onuachu, Victor Boniface and Frank Onyeka joining the attack. But Gernot Rohr, who managed Nigeria for five years, introduced a game management style that defied everything the Super Eagles threw at them.

Nigeria’s game was marred by incoherence and a lack of understanding that saw Onuachu and Ademola Lookman colliding several times in pursuit of one ball.

With the defeat, Nigeria now occupies the

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