Stephen Keshi's team fought back to secure a point away against Namibia, but it is not a result that guarantees their progression from their World Cup Qualifying Group
The Super Eagles of Nigeria limped towards Brazil next summer with an underwhelming draw away against Namibia. After the Brave Warriors had surprisingly taken the lead at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, through Deon Kavendji, the Super Eagles responded through an unlikely hero—Godfrey Oboabona securing a point on 83 minutes.
With Malawi and Kenya having shared the points earlier in the day, a win for Nigeria would have guaranteed their progression from Group F, and ensured their safe passage into the CAF play-off round. Instead, they were unable to beat a side ranked 125th in the world, and will now need to avoid defeat against the Flames in Calabar in order to advance.
During the opening stages, the visitors looked composed and confident. They kept the ball well, dominated possession, and gently began to turn the screw on their Namibian hosts, who looked, at the time, like veritable prey for Africa’s champions.
In the opening stages of the contest, Koln forward Anthony Ujah—preferred to both Ideye Brown and Joseph Akpala—burst through on goal, only to be bundled to the ground by a Namibian defender. After a period of hesitation the referee, clearly keen to shirk the decision, opted against carding the Brave Warrior and allowed the play to continue from the free kick.
Reduced to ten men at this point, the home side would surely have failed to contain the Super Eagles.
As the first half wore on, Keshi’s men sought the goal that would hand them near-complete control in the contest. Ujah was the most likely to break the deadlock, but every time the forward made himself some space, or found a moment of repose beyond the Namibian defence, he lost his nerve; a whole flurry of shots were sent skywards or into the arms of Virgil Vries in the home goal.
It became achingly apparent, that despite dominating possession, Nigeria lacked both the cohesion among their forwards and the creativity and vision in the middle of the park to genuinely trouble their southeast African rivals.
Ahmed Musa, with his raw pace and direct running, was a threat, but behind him, John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi were predominantly shackled by their opposite numbers.
As Nigeria’s profligacy continued, their hosts began to grow in confidence, and instigated several more forays forward when the opportunities arose. It was from one of these that the opening goal sprang, Kavandji on hand to sumptuously volley the ball past the stranded Vincent Enyeama, into the goalkeeper’s bottom left corner.
While in the short term, the goal demonstrated Nigeria’s mortality and their vulnerability to the searching counter attack, in the long term it threw their World Cup progression into doubt. The team needed to demonstrate their capabilities in the closing ten minutes.
Fortunately, they did just that. As the clock ticked down the side seemingly became aware of the obligations pressed upon them, and increased their efforts in search of a goal.
Eventually it came from an unexpected source, centre-back Godfrey Oboabona stepped up to take a freekick from the edge of the box. Seemingly an unlikely candidate for such a precious opportunity, the defender stepped up, and looking more like an Okocha than a Yobo, he sent a delightful finish into the Namibian net.
As the final minutes drifted away, it was the Super Eagles that looked the more likely to find a winner. Imbued by their equaliser, they pushed forward and pegged back the hosts, but to no avail. Sunday Mba was replaced by Fegor Ogude late on, and the Nigerians headed home with a point.