African champions, Nigeria’s Super Eagles began their title defence yesterday on a disappointing note, losing 3-2 at home to Red Devils of Congo. The visitors came from behind to grab all the three maximum points in the encounter and recorded their second victory over Nigeria, with the first being a 2-1 win in 1970.
Congolese were the better side and rightly deserved their victory on the road as they attacked even when they were enjoying a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Super Eagles took the lead in the 13 minutes through Celtic of Scotland defender, Efe Ambrose, who headed home from inside the box beyond the diving goalkeeper, Chansel Massa. But the joy of the Nigerians was cut short two minutes later as Congo drew level when Thievy Bifouma went past the Nigeria defence from the right flank and skipper Prince Oniangue easily slotted home from inside the box.
Bifouma turned from provider to scorer in the 40th minute, when he combined well inside the box before he picked his spot with the left foot to make 2-1 before the break.
10 minutes after the break, the outstanding Bifouma took the result beyond Super Eagles imagination by scoring third goal from penalty spot after he was brought down inside the box by Lazio of Italy midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi.
Substitute Gbolahan Salami pulled one goal back before the regulation for Coach Stephen Keshi’s squad.
The result means, Coach Stephen Keshi and his boys will be under intense pressure going into their next qualifying match in South Africa on Wednesday against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
The defeat was Super Eagles first loss to African opponent under Coach Stephen Keshi since he took over the team in November, 2011.
With all the crises that have bedevilled Nigerian football after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, ranging from the leadership tussle at the NFF, to the uncertainty surrounding Stephen Keshi’s future as the head coach, Eagles had more than enough recipe to even fail.