NIGERIA’S Super Eagles have qualified for the 2021 African Cup of Nations in dramatic fashion today after scoring an injury time winning goal against Benin Republic at the Charles de Gaulle stadium in Porto Novo ending the host’s eight-year unbeaten home record.
With the game certain to end in a 0-0 draw that would have qualified both teams for the continental showpiece in Cameroon this summer, substitute Paul Onuachu rose to head home a flick-on from a corner in the 91st minute to seal all three points for the Eagles. It was also the Eagles first victory in over a year since they defeated Lesotho 4-2 on matchday two of the qualifiers in November 2019.
Before kick-off today, Nigeria had actually already qualified for Cameroon 2021 following an earlier goalless draw between Lesotho and Sierra Leone, the two other teams in their group. That result means Lesotho can no longer qualify for the tournament and also meant that Sierra Leone could not match Nigeria’s tally of eight points before the Benin Republic game.
After five games, Sierra Leone’s Leone Stars now have four points, while Lesotho’s Crocodiles have three and Benin Republic’s Squirrels have seven. Nigeria’s Super Eagles have already topped the group with 11 points and with just one game left, which is taking place this Tuesday, the crunch match between Sierra Leone and Benin in Freetown will determine which other team joins Nigeria as qualifiers from the group.
Sierra Leone will need to beat Benin Republic to stand any chance of qualifying. Nigeria on the other hand will be engaged in a mere formality of a match against Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Today’s match on Porto Novo got off to a controversial start after Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi was ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus. His starting place in the team was taken by Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho in a game that Nigeria dominated but squandered numerous scoring chances.
Nigeria has now brought the number of countries that have qualified for Cameroon 2021 to 17, with the remaining seven places to be decided on the final match day taking place between March 28 and 30. Teams that have qualified include Egypt, Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Comoros and Nigeria.
Super Eagles line-up: