The Brave Warriors of Namibia dented African champions Nigeria’s chances a place in the final round of World Cup Qualifers in a pulsating one-all draw last night at Sam Nujoma Stadium.
After a largely subdued first half where Nigeria could have struck thrice were it not for the goalkeeping prowess of Virgill Vries and the wastefulness of Nigerian striker Ujah Ujah, Namibia came out guns blazing in the second half.
With Petrus Shitembi outshining Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, Nigeria was reduced to chasing shadows for much of the second half where the Brave Warriors finally got their first shots on target in the match, the third of which resulted in substitute Deon Hotto Kavendji beating Vincent Enyeama in the 76th minute.
Thanks to Denzil Haoseb, livewire Ahmed Musa was also kept at bay for much of the match.
The continental lightweights were all over the Confederations Cup bound West Africans who were missing top scorer Victor Moses and Ikechukwu Uche. Namibia conceded an unnecessary free-kick on the edge of the box, seven minutes from time and upstaged Godfrey Oboabona with a blistering equaliser.
This becomes the fifth goal in this qualifying series that Nigeria has scored in the last moments of the match. Gabriel Ruben scored late in Malawi, and against Kenya in Calabar Nnamdi Oduamadi scored with three minutes left, before Ahmed Musa struck a late goal last week in Nairobi.
But despite such a record, coach Stephen Keshi has not lost a competitive match since taking over 20months ago.
“Namibia earned our respect tonight. Their pace and agility was admirable. Of course the artificial turf made things a little harder for us but a draw is a good result still,” said Keshi last night.
The draw leaves Nigeria on top with 9 points ahead of Malawi who now have seven following a two-all draw against bottom placed Kenya with three points, yesterday. Namibia has six points.
Nigeria now needs at least a draw against Malawi in Abuja for a place in October and November’s final round of playoffs for the 2014 World Cup.
“We had the game in our hand but the referees robbed us. It could have been a different story if the Eritrean match officials had been fair,” said John Muinjo, Namibia Football Association President.