• Rwanda, Lesotho also in Eagles’ Group C
After failing to qualify for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria were given another tough route to the 2026 edition of the competition at the draws held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, yesterday.
Nigeria lost the Qatar 2022 ticket to Ghana, whose Black Stars edged out the Super Eagles on the away goal rule following a goalless draw in Cape Coast and a 1-1 stalemate in Abuja.
To qualify for the 2026 World Cup, Nigeria must win a group that comprises South Africa, Benin Republic, now coached by the last man to take the Super Eagles to the Copa du Mundo, Gernot Rohr, as well as Lesotho, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.
The winners of each group secure automatic qualification for the World Cup, while the four best group runners-up will go into a play-off stage to determine who, among them, will represent Africa in an inter-confederation tournament in March 2026.
The first round of fixtures for African qualifiers will hold in November. Morocco, semifinalists at the previous World Cup, are drawn in Group E with Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Tanzania, Niger, and Eritrea. Egypt are in Group A and will face Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, while Senegal are in Group B alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, and South Sudan.
Group D comprises Cameroun, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Eswatini and Mauritius, while Group F has Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Gambia, Burundi and Seychelles. Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia are in Group G; Group H has Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Malawi, Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe, while in Group I are Mali, Ghana, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros and Chad.
The draw was conducted in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, after the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) general assembly. South Africa is a regular customer to Nigeria with the Super Eagles always having the upper hand in competitive games. South Africa, however, tried to change the order in 2019 when the Bafana Bafana came to Uyo in 2017 to beat the Super Eagles 2-0 in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Benin Republic have also not fared well against Nigeria, but with Rohr, who knows the Super Eagles inside out, having coached the team for six years, the side now known as Cheetahs (formerly Squirrels), will fancy their chances of upsetting their more illustrious neighbours.