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Massive underdogs Central African Republic stun Nigeria in Lagos to up the suspense in Group C

It was all set up for Nigeria to give themselves a comfortable cushion at the top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group C in the CAF region, but the Super Eagles were struck down by a late winner from Karl Namnganda as Les Fauves of Central African Republic pulled off a stunning upset for the ages in Lagos on Thursday. Nigeria remain in first place but are now only two points ahead of Cape Verde and Central African Republic, who both sit on four points while Liberia have three. With three games remaining, the group is now up for grabs and the Nigerian side will need to get their composure back for the second half of the campaign.

Dominating in possession and opportunities, it looked like the hosts were set to cruise to a comfortable victory but could not find their finishing boots. In form Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho was the architect of the first half chances for the Super Eagles with his 27th minute through ball finding Victor Osimhen, but the Napoli man fired his finish high over the bar. In the final ten minutes of the first period, Iheanacho went on to curl a long range shot from 28 yards out over the ball before sending in a corner kick that saw Leon Balogun’s shot deflected wide of the visitors’ goal.

While Nigeria continued to dominate proceedings, Les Fauve provided quite a stubborn defensive front and did well to not hand the hosts any easy opportunities by committing mistakes. Still, for a long stretch after halftime, it continued to look like the goal for Nigeria was coming any minute. In the 53rd minute, Osimhen was at the corner of the penalty area when he attempted an audacious chipped shot that CAR keeper Prince Samolah could only watch hit the corner of the crossbar and post before the subsequent scramble led to Moses Simon’s shot being deflected wide.

However, the lack of goal continued to worry the Nigerian crowd and when a speculative 66th minute long ball from the visitors was flicked into the path of Namnganda, the relief was palpable when his shot was well saved by keeper Francis Uzoho. A minute later, Osimhen was well set up for an open header by a beautiful whipped cross from Ola Aina, but his poorly executed header went harmlessly wide before another chance in the final ten minutes saw Osimhen turn and shoot wide.

The moment of dread finally came for the hosts in the 90th minute. Substitute Jospin Gaopandia collected a ball in the CAR side of the midfield and did well to flick the ball past a charging Frank Onyeka before floating a hopeful long ball behind the Nigerian defense. The Super Eagles center back pairing of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun were comfortably ahead of a chasing Namnganda, but Balogun made a mess of his clearance and allowed the substitute forward to steal the ball. Namnganda, in alone on goal, finished low past Uzoho and sent Les Fauves into delirium as the entire team mobbed the hero in the subsequent celebration.

Nigeria desperately scrambled to try and find and equalizer, but the CAR bunker held out to complete a shock that will live on as an infamous moment in Nigerian football history. Highlights of the match are in the link below as Group C turns into a group that perhaps still has a few twists and turns remaining.

Highlights from FIFA TV

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