As the Crocodiles have shown, records may be misleading so the Super Eagles need to face the 90 minutes ahead of them squarely and forget all past achievements
Nigeria will on Sunday be looking to bounce back from their opening day draw against Lesotho when they take on Zimbabwe in their second match of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Super Eagles were held to an uninspiring 1-1 draw by the lowly-ranked Lesotho in Uyo on Thursday, and they will need to get all three points against Zimbabwe to keep their hopes of qualification back on track.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, will be looking to cause an upset as they can draw inspiration from the Crocodiles who were able to clip the Super Eagles’ wings despite the latter playing on home soil.
Just like the Super Eagles, the Warriors also secured a point in their opening match and they will be looking to build on that in Sunday’s outing even though they will be playing on a neutral turf in Rwanda.
After already missing out on the services of Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, who is out with injury, the Super Eagles have been further depleted up front with the injury suffered by Taiwo Awoniyi.
Awoniyi did not travel with the rest of the squad as he has since returned to England where Nottingham Forest doctors will hope to get him back in shape as quickly as possible.
This development means Coach Peseiro will have to tweak his attacking set-up for the clash against the Warriors
Against Lesotho, it was Awoniyi and Victor Boniface who led the Eagles’ attack but the duo of Terem Moffi and Moses Simon impressed as substitutes.
Unlike Awoniyi, Boniface is expected to keep his shirt.
Simon could replace Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman on the left flank, leaving Moffi as a replacement for Awoniyi.
Kelechi Iheanacho, who captained the team and played well, is likely to start again in Butare.
One of the newest faces in the Super Eagles setup, Nathan Tella, could also be given a chance against the Warriors.
In the backline, despite his crucial equalizer against Lesotho, Semi Ajayi’s partnership with Calvin Bassey continues to concede goals, even against minnows.
Kenneth Omeruo’s experience could be valuable in this tricky tie against the Warriors.
Head-to-Head: Zimbabwe vs. Nigeria
Just like Lesotho, Nigeria enjoys a dominant record against Zimbabwe, winning four of their last seven meetings and drawing two.
Their only loss came over 40 years ago in an international friendly in August 1981.
In the qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria secured an emphatic 8-1 aggregate victory over Zimbabwe.
Julius Aghahowa and Yakubu Aiyegbeni scored in a 0-3 win at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, while Obafemi Martins’ brace and Nwankwo Kanu’s penalty were among the goals in a 5-1 triumph in Abuja.
As the Crocodiles have shown, records may be misleading so the Super Eagles need to face the 90 minutes ahead of them squarely and forget all past achievements.
What they are saying
“At this level, all opponents play to win. Even we [Zimbabwe], will play for a win against Nigeria.
“People will expect revenge from Nigeria because they drew their first game [against Lesotho].
“But they are not playing against a small or weak nation. They will come strong, but we will come strong too. We are here to face them.” Zimbabwe coach Baltemar Brito said via the ZFA page.
“We will respond very well (vs Zimbabwe) Now we have to beat Zimbabwe on Sunday,” Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said.
Players to watch
Nigeria: Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Victor Boniface
Zimbabwe: Knowledge Musona, Tino Kadewere, Marvelous Nakamba
What’s at stake
All three points are up for grabs in this match. A win for Nigeria would put them back on track for qualification, while a win for Zimbabwe would give them a chance to top the group
A draw will put Nigeria in a precarious position if South Africa secures another win over Rwanda in their second game. Bafana Bafana are already dictating the pace in Group C after their win over Benin Republic on matchday 1
Only the group leaders get automatic World Cup tickets.
Nigeria’s probable lineup: 4-4-2
Uzoho; Aina, Omeruo, Ajayi, Onyemaechi; Simon, Onyeka, Iwobi, Boniface; 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)
This is a tricky match to call. Nigeria are the stronger team on paper, but they will need to be wary of Zimbabwe’s threat on the counter-attack. The Super Eagles should get a 2-1 win.