Once bitten, twice shy! That is the idiom said to anyone who is expected not to make similar errors he has made in the past.
This idiom will certainly be the only thing on the minds of Nigerian football fans when the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers begin in November 2023. The Super Eagles of Nigeria had missed out of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup after losing to bitter arch rivals Ghana on away goal rules.
— Osman Bukari (@OsmanBukari9) March 30, 2022
The pain swallowed by every Nigerian football stakeholder after seeing the Black Stars of Ghana qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup still haunts even after the tournament had been played and won a year ago.
Fast forward to 2023, the Super Eagles are 5 spots higher than their Ghanaian rivals, after the latest FIFA rankings saw Nigeria ranked 6th in Africa, while Ghana were ranked 11th. Both teams have also qualified for the 2023 Africa Cup Of Nations in Côte D’Ivoire but it is a different route for both nations to have their flag fly in the United State of America, Canada and Mexico for the 2026 World Cup.
The 2026 World Cup qualifiers will be played between November 2023 and November 2025. The new format of the World Cup adopted by FIFA will also see Africa have 9 countries qualify automatically with a possible additional country qualify through the playoffs.
2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Super Eagles and The Qualifiers
For CAF, the qualifiers will have two phases. The first phase will see all the teams grouped and the winners of each group will qualify automatically for the mundial. The second phase will see the top 4 second placed teams play a playoff to determine which team will participate in the intercontinental playoff.
FIFA World Cup 2026 ™️ Preliminary Draw – CAF 👇
— CAF (@CAF_Online) July 13, 2023
For the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they are drawn in Group C of the qualifiers. To qualify automatically for the tournament, the Super Eagles will have to top their group at all cost to achieve that.
2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Super Eagles and Familiar Foes
Group C sees the Super Eagles drawn with familiar foes like South Africa and neighbours, Benin Republic, Rwanda, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
There is this rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa over the years. This battle will be rekindled when these two clash in the qualifiers yet again. South Africa were on the path of the Super Eagles during the qualifiers of the 2018 World Cup but the Nigerians overcame them.
Nigeria vs. South Africa coming to our screens again 🍿
𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑨𝒎𝒂𝒑𝒊𝒂𝒏𝒐 𝑫𝒆𝒓𝒃𝒚 pic.twitter.com/iDPEuBvJHQ
— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) July 13, 2023
A renewed and hungry South African team will pose more threat for the wounded Super Eagles.
The game against Benin Republic is more than a derby. The neighbours are coached by Super Eagles’ former head coach, Gernot Rohr. Rohr was controversially sacked by the Nigeria Football federation hence this might be a sort of revenge mission for him and for the Squirrels, a game of pride.
So, the Super Eagles while being the biggest hunters in the group might just be the hunted one in the group as well.
2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Nigeria v Lesotho
The Super Eagles’ first game of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers will see them tackle Lesotho. The match will be played at the Nest of Champions in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state on the 16th November, 2023.
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) October 26, 2023
The game will mark the first step to redemption for the Super Eagles. After the Lesotho game, the Super Eagles will then travel to Rwanda to take on Zimbabwe for the day 2 round of fixtures.
The sun is about to shine yet again, will the Super Eagles make hay?