Photos credit: AP
Little known Central African Republic with a population of less than 5million people came to Lagos on Thursday to inflict on Nigeria her first defeat in their ongoing qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Signs that the match, witnessed by a mammoth home crowd at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere -Lagos was headed for a cul-de-sac manifested early when the Eagles, parading a host of well known Euro-based stars failed to breach a tightly knit CAR team bubbling with less fancied players.
At the end, when it looked like the match was heading for a draw, the visitors pounced late on to score a backbreaking goal to condemn the Eagles to their first defeat of the series.
Unknown Karl Namnganda capitalised on a defensive mistake to score the winner as shell-shocked Nigerian fans watched on helplessly.
It was the first time the Eagles would be throwing a match since they began their campaign in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
However, those who know the history of the team were not surprised by the loss. From time immemorial, the country's national football team have often flattered to deceive.
Many a time in the past, the Eagles have disappointed her doting fans with performances quite unbecoming of their huge pedigree.
Thursday's game against the Central African Republic was one of those.
Here are 4 other occasions the Nigerian team, against all expectations, let their numerous countrymen and women down right at home.
NIGERIA VS TUNISIA (November 12, 1977)
Photo credit: Reuters
The Super Eagles, then known as the Green Eagles' dream of qualifying for the World Cup was well on the way to being actualised until the unexpected happened in Lagos in November 1977.
It was the final round of the Argentina 1978 World Cup qualifiers and Nigeria was hosting Tunisia in a tough group that also had Egypt.
Only one slot was needed to be filled from the African continent and these three countries were left to vie for that single slot.
Nigeria, with big names like Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Adokie Amaesiemaka, Muda Lawal, Felix Owolabi, Alloysius Atuegbu, to mention but a few, filed out to confront the Tunisians at the National Stadium, Surulere-Lagos.
A win for Nigeria would have seen them qualify for the World Cup for the first time. But tragedy struck for the country when defender, Godwin Odiye inadvertently directed a ball into Nigeria's net in the 61st minute of a very tense encounter right in front of a vociferous home crowd at home that evening.
The Eagles were never able to overcome the psychological setback of that blow to their hopes as they failed to mount a comeback.
NIGERIA VS ALGERIA (October 10, 1981)
Photo credit: AFP
Nigeria tried to put behind them the pain of missing out on the Argentina 1978 World Cup with another shot at the next event scheduled to hold in Spain 1982.
Having conquered Africa following their win of the African Cup of Nations as hosts in 1980, the Eagles were seen as finally able to break the jinx of their perennial hoodoo in the qualifiers.
Having acquitted themselves quite well in the qualifiers, they were pitched against Algeria -- the very team they thrashed 3-0 to win the Nations Cup on home soil a year earlier.
However, while the Algerians entered intensive training in order to conquer their opponents, the Nigerian team spent considerable time bickering over which players to invite for the game.
And so, when the two teams met in a sweltering afternoon at the National Stadium, Lagos on October 10, 1981, it was the Algerians that would carry the day as they used their incredible pace to outwit a tentative Nigerian team, scoring two unreplied goals from the boots of Lakhdar Belloumi and O Zidane in the 34th and 44th minutes.
The Eagles never recovered from the shock as they failed on their redemption mission to a very cold Constantine with a synthetic pitch two weeks later.
The Algerians made sure they won the second leg 2-1, thus ending the two-legged encounter on a 4-1 aggregate.
Only Algeria and Cameroun ended up representing Africa in that mundial.
NIGERIA VS CAMEROUN ( February 13, 2000)
Photos credit: AFP
Nigeria had a fantastic run to the finals of the Nigeria/Ghana 2000 African Cup of Nations.
In what was one of the most keenly followed of such tournaments to be co-hosted for the first time, a Nigeria and Cameroun showdown on the last day of competition in Lagos was a good advertisement for African football.
The Eagles faced up to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, a country that had somewhat annexed the title for a considerable period before meeting the Nigerians.
However, the Eagles were presented a rude awakening as the duo of Samuel Eto'o and Patrick Mboma scored two early goals to silence the Nigerian crowd in Lagos.
However, following a rally by the Nigerians through Raphael Chukwu and Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, the game stabilised at 2-2 before penalties were later employed to decide the game following a stalemated extra time.
Okocha, Godwin Okpara and Sunday Oliseh all scored their penalties while the duo of Victor Ikpeba and Nwankwo Kanu missed theirs.
And aside the late Marc Vivien Foe, Cameroun scored all their spotkicks through Patrick Mboma, Pierre Wome, Geremi Njitap and Rigobert Song.
The Lions ran away 4-3 victors after the shootout and the Nigerian fans were left to rue what might have been.
NIGERIA VS SOUTH AFRICA ( June 10, 2017)
Photo credit: Getty Images
Another painful defeat that was hard to take for Nigerians was the one South Africa inflicted on Nigeria in 2017.
It was the qualifiers for the Cameroun 2019 African Cup of Nations which was later moved to Egypt.
Until the shock defeat at the Uyo International Stadium that fateful day on June 10, 2017, the Super Eagles had never lost a competitive game to the Bafana Bafana in 13 encounters!
Well, all that would change on this particular day as the South Africans scored twice through Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau to condemn the Eagles to a very embarrassing defeat in front of an expectant home crowd in Uyo.
It was also Gernot Rohr's first loss as the Eagles coach since he was employed a year earlier.
The Eagles had later overcome the setback to qualify for the biennial championship but the South African upset remains indelible till date.
Photos credit: Getty Images
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