A heavily depleted Super Eagles team got the job done on the road, beating Cape Verde 2-1 away at the Aderito Sena stadium to maintain an unbeaten run in Group C in the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Cape Verde had taken the lead through Taveres, who latched on to a diagonal cross from deep, rushing on to beat Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye in his near post, but a Victor Osimhen equalizer and a defensive mix-up from the hosts, gifted Nigeria a 2-1 win.
Nigeria got the rub of luck against Cape Verde, and it was an opportunity they grabbed with both hands, leaving with all three points under the circumstances. The Super Eagles didn’t have the 10 players they called up for the first game against Liberia, due to travel restrictions to Cape Verde for UK-based players, and also the positive Covid results for Samuel Kalu and Tyrone Ebuehi before the team departed Lagos.
Buoyed by the huge financial incentive from one of the team’s official sponsors, Air Peace who flew the Nigerian contingent on a chartered flight to Cape Verde, the Super Eagles were promised the sum of N20million by the airline’s CEO Allen Onyema, if they could get all three points in the game.
Although any Nigerian team donning the green and white jersey is expected to do well by its very demanding fans, it was glaring that the seven forced changes made by coach Gernot Rohr lacked some balance and cohesion.
Innocent Bonke and Kingsley Michael struggled to get going in midfield, with the former particularly struggling with some early jitters that led to some fouls and giving away the ball needlessly. However there was some spark through CSKA Moscow’s Chidera Ejuke who was flying on the left flank.
Tavares gifted the host the opening goal, running behind Nigeria’s defence undetected to rifle the ball past Okoye in his near post. But Nigeria got back stronger and pushed for an equalizer. Jamilu Collins did some great work putting in a cross that trouble the Blue Sharks, with the keeper making a safe and the rebound falling nicely to the alerted Osimhen who pounced and converted.
Nigeria had a flurry of chances and should have found the net before going into the break. Ejuke forced Vozinha into an excellent save, and from the resultant corner, Chidozie Awaziema ought to have been awarded a penalty after suffering a high boot.
But they struggled to carry on with that momentum at the start of second half, not creating any meaningful chance for more than 20mins. Osimhen found Musa with a good cross, and the latter’s tame effort couldn’t trouble Cape Verde.
Luckily with the introduction of Henry Onyekuru and Terem Moffi, there was some urgency in attack. It was the pressure from Onyekuru that forced Kenny Rochas Santos into an error, catching Vozinha off his lines to score an own-goal.
Cape Verde piled up some pressure in the dying minutes of the game and almost equalized through Dias, heading down the ball as it sailed agonizingly wide off Okoye’s post. Nigeria hung on for all three points, and now six points from two games to remain top of the group.
It wasn’t a glamorous performance from Nigeria, but the three points was what mattered at the end. The team will return to their respective clubs, and then regroup in October for another round of World Cup qualifiers.