Eagles begin 2026 W’Cup qualifier against Crocodiles

3 min read

Nigeria will be without the trio Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Wilfred Ndidi when they begin their 2026 World Cup qualification campaign with a home game against Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Thursday (today)

The three-time African champions failed to qualify for the last edition of the World Cup in Qatar after playing a 1-1 draw with Ghana at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja having played a goalless draw away from home.

In the Eagles World Cup qualifcation history, they have not missed out on two consecutive editions of the Mundial having qualified for six of the last eight tournaments since their first World Cup appearance in 1994 – missing only the 2006 and 2022 editions.

Despite being favourites heading into this fixture, the Eagles will not only aim to get the better of the Crocodiles in this encounter but also to pick the ticket to the Mundial ahead of South Africa, Benin Republic, Rwanda and Lesotho.

Currently on a five-game unbeaten run, the Eagles will be relying on the prolific form of Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Boniface, Taiwo Awoniyi and Terem Moffi to kick-start their qualification campaign on a winning note after Rwanda and Zimbabwe played out a goalless draw on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of the encounter Lesotho coach, Leslie Notsi is optimistic that his team can curtail the pressure of the Eagles and their fans in Uyo.

“Our expectation is to have a tough match and we are taking this opportunity as a young football nation to get the exposure experience,”Notsi said.

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“We have young and talented players who are eager to learn and grow so we are here to honour the fixture with a competitive mindset.

“Most of the players we have are from our developmental teams and I must also give credit to our league which has enabled us national team coaches to pick easily. We are coming here to take the opportunity of playing one of the best teams on the continent.

“We know the support will be there, and we will see how we perform under tremendous pressure because I think that will be a sign of how we have improved. We know it’s going to be tough but we will play our best.”

Also reacting to the game, midfielder, Raphael Onyedika says the encounter is a ‘must win match’ for the Eagles.

The 22-year-old Club Brugge of Belgium midfielder who looks set to make his fourth appearance for the Eagles said, “It was a good (training) session. It’s nice to be back and we’re looking forward to the game against Lesotho”

“It’s a must win game,” he told reporters after Wednesday’s training.

“We must put all our efforts together to win the game because our fans and every Nigerian is getting on us, supporting us to win. So, we need to put all our efforts to win the game and get the three points.”


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