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WC Qualification Africa

Five times the Super Eagles messed up World Cup or Afcon qualification

22:20 EAT 09/10/2021
Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria, Mendonca of Angola
Goal look back on Nigeria's previous failures to secure their participation at the global or continental showpiece

  • Gernot Rohr

    Nigeria’s setbacks in qualification

    Even though the current Super Eagles iteration aren’t in dire straits, Thursday’s defeat by The Central African Republic has elicited some trepidation among fans of the West African nation.

    This unease stems from the nation’s previous inclination to make things tough for themselves during World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, although they still hold their fate in their hands this time.

    In this retrospective feature, Goal highlights previous occasions where the three-time African champions faltered.

  • Segun Odegbami

    1978 World Cup qualification

    Nigeria made their World Cup debut in 1994 but this could have come almost two decades earlier in ’78.

    The West Africans brushed Sierra Leone aside in the First Round 6-2 on aggregate, advanced to the Third Round automatically after DR Congo (then Zaire) withdrew and beat Ivory Coast 4-2 on aggregate to advance to the final round—comprising Nigeria, Egypt and Tunisia.

    Despite gaining a creditable draw in Tunisia and thrashing Egypt 4-0 on home soil, their next two fixtures marred their chances, with the second particularly stinging.

    The 3-1 reverse against the Pharaohs was followed by a 1-0 loss at home against the Carthage Eagles, a loss that saw the North African nation qualify at their expense.

    Godwin Odiye’s own goal saw the Eagles end bottom of their group, but they could just have easily been Africa’s sole flagbearers in Argentina if they picked up maximum points on their turf.

    Speaking to Punch last year, Segun Odegbami revealed he rues not featuring in the finals.

  • Stephen Keshi portrait

    1986 Africa Cup of Nations qualification

    After Tanzania’s withdrawal in the second round of Afcon qualifying, Nigeria’s walkover meant they were only two games away from confirming their participation in Egypt 1986.

    Facing Zambia seemed straightforward enough, but the Super Eagles failed to score in both encounters: drawing 0-0 in West Africa and losing 1-0 on the road.

    The fact the Copper Bullets ended bottom of their group in the showpiece further emphasised the disappointment of a nation that made the semi-finals in four of their previous five Afcons (winning in 1980) before their non-appearance in ’86.

  • Stephen Keshi immemoriam

    1990 World Cup qualification

    Nigeria finally debuted in 1994 but they had the situation in their hands four years earlier when they led the group until the final round of games.

    The Super Eagles went into that game against Cameroon in August 1989 with both sides level on seven points.

    A 1-0 loss in Central Africa saw the Indomitable Lions finish top of the group on nine points, with the West Africans ending two points lower.

    A stalemate ought to have sufficed for Nigeria but that defeat, coupled with their 2-2 draw in Angola, meant they didn’t feature in Italia ’90.

  • Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria

    2006 World Cup qualification

    Missing out on Germany 2006 left a sour taste and nearly every Nigerian still recollects how the head-to-head tiebreaker counted against the Super Eagles at Angola’s expense.

    The Super Eagles netted 21 goals — only two teams netted more — and conceded seven — better than all but two nations in qualifying — with their +14 goal difference outdone by only Algeria, yet the Palancas Negras pipped the fancied giants due to their superior results in games between the sides.

    Akwa netted the only goal in Angola’s 1-0 success on home soil and the Eagles couldn’t hold on in Kano after Jay-Jay Okocha’s early free-kick sent them 1-0 up.

    Both nations ended on 21 points, but the Southern African nation subsequently competed in their first and only World Cup to date.

  • Nigeria vs Sudan, Abuja

    2015 Afcon qualification

    A disastrous set of results meant the West African nation never got to defend the title they won two years earlier in South Africa.

    Despite seemingly favourable rules — the two highest-ranked teams in each group progressed while the best third-placed side advanced — Nigeria still contrived to miss out.

    They fell 3-2 at home to Congo, were beaten 1-0 in Sudan (the bottom side’s only points from six games) and played out a 2-2 home draw against group winners South Africa in the final round of games.

    How Nigeria made a hash of the situation was rather bizarre.