The three-time African champions had not lost a World Cup qualifier at home since 1981, but the less fancied side flipped the script to claim a major scalp
Nigeria’s 40-year unbeaten record of not losing a World Cup qualifier at home came to a shocking end on Thursday evening as the Central African Republic claimed a 1-0 win at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in their 2022 World Cup qualifier.
The result also ends Gernot Rohr’s unbeaten record as Super Eagles coach in World Cup qualifiers. Nigeria went into the game as the clear favourites, with 90 spots sitting between the two sides in the FIFA rankings.
The Super Eagles had started the qualifying campaign with two wins out of two, but they struggled to get going on Thursday evening.
Les Fauves had a game plan, which was to sit back and hit Nigeria on the break. They did that perfectly as Nigeria struggled to create a chance in the first half.
The Wild Beasts exploited the weakness of Leon Balogun anytime they ventured forward, and they almost took the lead just before half-time, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Collins.
Nigeria resumed the second half with Awoniyi coming on for Kelechi Iheanacho, and the Union Berlin striker brought more life to the team’s attack.
The Super Eagles almost took the lead on the hour mark when a looped shot from Victor Osimhen hit the post.
Awoniyi also got close on two occasions, heading wide, while he also failed to connect properly with an Osimhen cross.
However, the longer the time went on, the more CAR believed they could get something from the game.
And in the 90th minute, the unthinkable happened as Karl Namnganda capitalised on an error from Balogun to slot past Francis Uzoho.
The goal came against the run of play, but in the end, it was a thoroughly deserved win for the less-fancied side. The result has now opened the race for the top spot in Group C.
Rohr’s men still lead the group with six points, but they are now just two points ahead of CAR and Cape Verde, who beat Liberia 2-1 in Accra.
Nonetheless, the Super Eagles have the chance to turn it around immediately when they take on the same opponent in the second leg on Sunday in Douala.