A determined Congo Brazzaville beat a wretched Nigerian team of uninspired players 3-2 Saturday to begin their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign with one of the biggest shocks in African football history.
The Super Eagles fell apart in quite extraordinary fashion at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar – a reflection perhaps of the chaos engulfing Nigerian football at the moment.
Nigeria, the reigning African champions, took the lead against Congo after 13 minutes when Efe Ambrose’s header managed to find a way past Congo goalkeeper Massa Chansel.
But the lead did not last long as Prince Oniangue took advantage of some slack marking and equalised for the Red Devils two minutes later.
It was a tricky game played on a bumpy pitch which made ball-control nearly impossible.
As Nigeria struggled to find drive and creativity, disaster struck.
Just moments after goalkeeper Austin Ejide, standing in for Vincent Enyeama, had done well to keep out a superb free kick by Francis Nganga, the visitors went in front on 40 minutes when Thievy Bifouma finished off a fine move.
Bifouma struck again in the 53rd minute when he converted a penalty awarded when he was fouled by Ogenyi Onazi inside the box.
Gbolahan Salami then gave the home side a glimmer of hope when he reduced the arrears with less than five remaining.
But the Red Devils held on for a famous victory.
Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, swas left shamefaced by the performance of his boys.
A boastful Keshi had said before the match: “The Congolese should not feel we don’t know anything about them. I have read so much about their team. We know their strength and their weakness, so we can play against them.
“I have done my consultations and carried out some research about. Yes, they have a versatile coach in Claude Leroy on the bench. Leroy is someone that understands the African terrain but I don’t think there is any need to worry about our opponents.
“We got good players in camp and they know what it means to be at the Cup of Nations. The task looks enormous but these boys are good to go against Congo.”