2026 WCQ: Eagles must devour Cheetahs of Benin to put quest for qualification back on track

2026 WCQ: Eagles must devour Cheetahs of Benin to put quest for qualification back on track

West African neighbours Benin and Nigeria battle in Monday's World Cup qualifying match at Stade Felix-Houphouet-Boigny.

The Cheetahs' win over Rwanda last time out and the Super Eagles' inability to secure three points so far means Group C is one of the stiffest, with every side from first to sixth still in with a chance of qualification after three rounds.

Gernot Rohr could inflict even more misery on his old side when his current one hosts the three-time African champions on Monday.

While Monday's game takes place in Abidjan, Rohr hopes his side give everything to build on the recent 1-0 triumph over Rwanda that elevated them to third in the standings, one ahead of the Super Eagles.

The upshot of Benin's win leaves them level with the side they defeated and one behind table-topping Lesotho, who got the better of bottom Zimbabwe in round three, meaning first and bottom in Group C are separated by three points.

Rohr's side are one of four nations to have won a game apiece in the section, underlining how competitive it has been after three matches, with no one likely to run away with first place.

Having played a day earlier than Nigeria, the Cheetahs hope to be beneficiaries of the extra day's rest, keen to end the Super Eagles' undefeated start to qualifying.

It sure does not feel that way for Finidi George's men, who have played 1-1 draws in qualifying against Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Friday's tie with Bafana Bafana was particularly frustrating for supporters, who felt they were denied a stonewall penalty for a foul on Fisayo Dele-Bashiru minutes after the midfielder's brilliant equaliser.


The Hatayspor man had levelled early after the break to cancel Themba Zwane's strike for Hugo Broos's men on the half-hour, preventing the home side from leaving Uyo with their tails between their legs.

Despite their far-from-ideal start, Finidi's men can put their three consecutive draws behind them by defeating Benin in Abidjan, potentially taking the Super Eagles top of the group if South Africa are unsuccessful against Zimbabwe and Lesotho and Rwanda play out a stalemate.

Having missed out on qualification to the last World Cup finals, Nigeria must get their act together and avoid being absent in consecutive editions for the first time since their maiden appearance in 1994.

Dokou Dodo was the match-winner against Rwanda, and the midfield man should retain his place for Monday's match.

Benin's main threat remains Steve Mounie, and the centre-forward should lead the attack with Junior Olaitan and Jodel Dossou flanking the striker.

Rohr's men suffered no seeming injuries last time out, thus pointing to a similar lineup against their West African neighbours.

Nigeria were not quite fortunate, with the admirable Dele-Bashiru replaced moments after he was clumsily brought down in the penalty area and George conforming Semi Ajayi was withdrawn with a knock.

The Super Eagles boss was criticised for leaving out Bundesliga champion Victor Boniface, with the Bayer Leverkusen man not getting match action in Friday's draw. However, Terem Moffi could start on Monday ahead of the Leverkusen forward.

Atalanta's Europa League hero Ademola Lookman fired blanks against South Africa, as the forward's attempts either went awry or were blocked, but he could be the difference-maker against Benin.

Alex Iwobi was one of Nigeria's top performers against the South Africans, and the Fulham man should keep his midfield spot alongside Wilfred Ndidi.