Five takeaways from Nigeria’s disastrous 2-1 loss to Benin in FIFA World Cup qualifier

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Nigeria fell to a disastrous 2-1 defeat to the Benin Republic inside the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan on Monday to leave their World Cup hopes hanging.

Raphael Onyedika broke the deadlock in the 28th minute for the Eagles but the Cheetahs struck back twice before the end of the half to seal a memorable victory over their West African neighbours.‘s Imhons Erons looks at the key takeaways from the disappointing defeat. 

1. The NFF should not have sacked Rohr

Since Rohr was relieved of his duties in December 2021, the Super Eagles have failed to lift the AFCON twice and failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Rohr, on Monday, led the Benin Republic to register their first senior win in international football over Nigeria. The German’s Cheetahs looked fitter, more organised, and more determined than Finidi’s Eagles.

Since Rohr last qualified Nigeria for the World Cup in 2018, Augustine Eguavoen failed to replicate that success and it appears that Finidi will not be able to match the German’s feat.

Nigeria would probably have won today’s match if Rohr had been in the Super Eagles’ dugout and not Benin’s.

2. Finidi set up the Eagles to fail in the first half

Finidi appeared to learn no lesson from Nigeria’s loss against South Africa last week as he again set up an imbalanced team versus Benin.

The Super Eagles coach deployed three players in their unnatural position.

Fenerbahce right-back Bright Osayi-Samuel was given the left-back role. Centre-back Benjamin Tanimu played right-back while left-back Calvin Bassey was deployed again as a centre-back.

It did not work against South Africa and it failed again against Benin. Finidi reverted to factory settings at the start of the second half by which time Benin had wrecked maximum damage.

3. Calvin Bassey is not a centre-back

For emphasis let me repeat, Calvin Bassey is not a centre-back!

That experiment of converting him from a left-back to a centre-back started at Rangers but it failed woefully at Ajax. Marco Silva has stuck with it at Fulham but even Peseiro realized Bassey is not a centre-back and only played him there as one-third of a three-man centre-back system.

Finidi partnered Bassey with Semi Ajayi against South Africa and Benin and Nigeria conceded three goals in two games.

Bassey is an excellent left-back and not one of Nigeria’s best centre-backs. Olisa Ndah, Kenneth Omeruo, and even Tanimu would do a better job at the heart of the defence than Bassey.

And this is not even because of his mistake that led to Benin’s equaliser.

4. Nigeria’s worst performance against Benin

That was the first time Nigeria had ever conceded two goals in 17 games against Benin across 47 years, starting from a 7-0 triumph in February 1977.

In 14 previous games against the Beninoise, Nigeria boasted an incredible record of 12 wins and two draws.

Thanks to coach Finidi Geroge and his not-so-Super Eagles, a loss has been added to that slate. Sadly, it comes during the World Cup qualifier and not an international friendly.

5. Nigeria will NOT qualify for the 2026 World Cup

The Super Eagles have three points from four matches and are now four points adrift of Benin Republic, who climbed to the top of Group C after their incredible win in Abidjan.

Nigeria will remain fifth in the group and could slip to the basement of the pile, should Zimbabwe win their match.

It is Nigeria’s worst run ever during the qualifying campaign for the World Cup, with the Super Eagles now without a win in any of their last seven games in the series – recording six draws and one defeat.

That form is for a team not ready to compete with the best nations at the Mundial and unless something dramatic happens in the following months, Nigerians should not expect to see the Eagles at the showpiece to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

NB: What are your takeaways from the match? Leave them in the comment section below.