After failing to soar against lowly Lesotho in Uyo on Thursday, the Eagles know nothing but a win will set them back on course for World Cyp qualification
Nigeria will look to get their qualification hopes for the 2026 FIFA World Cup back on track when they trade tackles with Zimbabwe on Sunday, November 19, 2023.
Contrary to what many predicted, the Super Eagles stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Lesotho on matchday one of the qualification campaign inside the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
In the absence of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, Jose Peseiro’s men were wasteful and uncoordinated in attack, missing several gilt-edged chances.
Lesotho punished the indecisive Nigerians when Motlomelo Mkhwanazi handed the Crocodiles the lead early in the second half.
Semi Ajayi headed home the equaliser for the Eagles in the 66th minute, but the team could not muster the winning goal.
Following that disappointing draw, Nigeria will be desperate for all three points when they meet with Zimbabwe in Rwanda’s Southern Province of Butare on Sunday.
Zimbabwe, however, will draw confidence from Lesotho’s display against Nigeria and their own performance against Rwanda on the same day.
The Warriors were arguably the better side and were unlucky not to score in a game that ended in a 0-0 draw inside the Stade Huye in Butare.
That was an impressive result as the Southern Africans only emerged from a FIFA-imposed 18-month ban that saw the team miss out on playing in the African Cup of Nations preliminaries in 2023.
Zimbabwe have adopted the same Stade Huye in Rwanda as their home ground for the clash with Nigeria and will look to claim a memorable win over the former African champions.
Head to head – Zimbabwe vs Nigeria
Nigeria’s only loss in seven meetings with Zimbabwe came in an international friendly in August 1981.
Since then, the Super Eagles have claimed four wins and two draws, including an aggregate 8-1 win across two legs during the qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Julius Aghahowa and Yakubu Aiyegbeni scored as Nigeria secured a 0-3 victory at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
A brace from Obafemi Martins and a Nwankwo Kanu penalty were among the goals as the Super Eagles completed the job with a 5-1 triumph in Abuja in the return leg.
Nigeria team news
Coach Peseiro went with the striking duo of Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Boniface against Lesotho, but he will be forced to make changes as the Nottingham Forest man has left the Super Eagles camp due to injury.
Terem Moffi and Moses Simon impressed after they were introduced in the second half, and the Nantes winger could be preferred to Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman on the left flank.
Kelechi Iheanacho impressed as team captain and will likely start again in Butare.
Still, Peseiro may find the Leicester City forward another role as Nathan Tella’s direct running and eye-for-goal could be pivotal on that right wing.
Semi Ajayi saved Nigeria’s blushes with his crucial equaliser against Lesotho, but the West Brom defender’s partnership with Calvin Bassey continues to leak goals even from minnows.
Kenneth Omeruo’s experience could come in handy in a tricky tie against the Warriors.
Zimbabwe team news
Zimbabwe did everything right but scored a goal against Rwanda, and their Brazilian coach, Baltemar Brito, will aim to deploy the same template against Nigeria.
The Warriors, set up in a 3-5-2 formation, were dominant in defence, competitive in midfield, and dangerous on the attack.
Houston Dynamo defender Teenage Hadebe will likely continue in central defence as they look to shield goalkeeper Bernard Donovan Fungai.
The industry and energy of Marvelous Nakamba and Brian Banda will also be crucial in the middle of the park against Nigeria.
Coach Brito started with the striking pair of Admiral Muskwe and Prince Dube on Thursday, but he could decide to shake things up a bit with Philana Kadewere and Terrence Dzvukamanja.
Zimbabwe’s probable lineup, 3-5-2:
Donovan; Hadebe, Lunga, Mbeba; Nakamba, Takwara, Munetsi, Banda, Musona; Muskwe, Kadewere
Nigeria’s probable lineup, 4-4-2:
Uzoho; Aina, Omeruo, Ajayi, Onyemaechi; Simon, Onyeka, Iwobi, Tella; Iheanacho, Moffi.
Competition: CAF World Cup Qualifiers
Match: Zimbabwe vs Nigeria
Venue: Stade Huye, Butare, Rwanda
Date: 19 November, 2023
Kick-off time: 2 pm (Nigerian time)