A final playoff ticket to the 2022 World Cup will be won Tuesday, when the Super Eagles welcome Cape Verde to a final Group C game in Lagos.
Nigeria top the group on 12 points, two points more than closest rivals Cape Verde, who had to come from behind to beat Central African Republic 2-1 at home Saturday.
The Eagles will advance to the knockout round of the World Cup qualifying tournament should they win or draw with the Blue Sharks in Lagos.
Cape Verde, on the other hand, will only go through should they upset the three-time African champions on the day.
Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has previously qualified the country to major tournaments like the World Cup and AFCON with a game to spare.
But qualification from Group C will now have to go down to the wire partly after Central African Republic recorded a famous 1-0 victory over the star-studded Eagles last month.
Cape Verde were always the bookmakers’ favourites to run the Eagles very close in the group stage of the qualifiers, but it seemed this was a mirage in September, when Nigeria raced to two wins in their first two games.
The wins included an experimental Nigeria side, shorn of their top stars in the Premier League in England due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in the UK, going past hosts Cape Verde 2-1 on an artificial pitch in the island of Mindelo.
The win was a bit flattering for the Eagles after Cape Verde gifted them two cheap goals including a most bizzare own goal delivered from almost the centre circle.
To their credit and a proof of character, Cape Verde fought their way back into contention with back-to-back wins against Liberia in October, before they followed that up with Saturday’s hard-fought home win over CAR.
For the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, they pressed Tunisia close for a playoff ticket before they were unhinged by a decision by FIFA, who docked them three points and three goals for fielding an ineligible player in a 2-0 shock win against the North Africans.
The West African islanders have featured at three AFCONs with their best performance being on their debut in 2013, when they reached the last eight.
They are currently ranked 72nd in the world, while they climbed as high as 27th in the world in 2014.
The Blue Sharks are known to cause some shock results.
Could they deliver one of such on Tuesday in Lagos?