JOHANNESBURG: Nigeria suffered a humiliating home defeat in World Cup qualification on Thursday as the Central African Republic grabbed a last-minute winner for a shock victory in Lagos.

Substitute Karl Namnganda, who plays in the fourth tier of French football, took advantage of a defensive mix-up between William Troost and Leon Balogun to score a stunning winner and throw their qualifying section wide open.

The upset overshadowed the rest of the days African qualifiers where there was also a significant win for tiny Equatorial Guinea over Zambia and a third successive victory for Tunisia.

Norwegian-based striker Ibrahima Kone netted a hat-trick for Mali as they thrashed Kenya 5-0 while Benin’s win in Tanzania put them in pole position in their group.

Nigeria had won their opening matches in Group C and were expected to push further ahead at the expense of lowly Central African Republic, who were without their only recognised star Geoffrey Kondogbia of Atletico Madrid, who is refusing to play because of the poor organisation around the team.

Victor Osimhen hit the post early in the second half for Nigeria and fluffed another chance but the Super Eagles were largely subdued in what was expected to be a routine home assignment.

We missed the creativity of Alex Iwobi, we also missed Wilfred Ndidi so much,” said Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, referring to two injured Premier League midfielders. The boys do not understand how they lost this match. We dominated possession and had several opportunities to score but did not do so.”

It was the biggest win in the Central African Republics football history as they moved to four points.

Nigeria still lead the group on six points but Cape Verde’s 2-1 win in Liberia, where Garry Rodrigues rifled home a stoppage-time winner, also puts them on four points.

Only the section winners advance to the playoffs in March, which will decide the five African qualifiers for the 2022 finals.

Tunisia kept up their 100% record after three games in Group B as they beat Mauritania 3-0 at home, with second-placed Equatorial Guinea three points back.

Mali shrugged off having to cede home advantage and play in Agadir, Morocco because of the poor condition of their stadia as they hammered Kenya and are two points ahead of Uganda in Group ‘E’. Uganda won 1-0 earlier on Thursday away to Rwanda.

Benin boosted their chances of winning Group ‘J’ with a 1-0 victory in Tanzania through a goal from Steve Mounie, who played for Huddersfield Town when they were in the Premier League during the last decade.

The Squirrels have seven points, two more than the Democratic Republic of Congo, who overcame Madagascar 2-0 in Kinshasa with 35-year-old Dieumerci Mbokani among the scorers for the third straight match.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021

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