After four rounds of games, the Super Eagles of Nigeria top African qualifying Group B of the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier Russia, three points ahead of second-placed Zambia.
Following the ousters of Cameroon and Algeria, it is now a straight fight between the Eagles and Zambia for the sole ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Matchday five will see the Eagles, who have been riding high and are on 10 points, host Zambia on seven points, in Uyo on October 7.
A home win for the Eagles will seal their third straight World Cup qualification but to guard against complacency,
Completesportsnigeria.com’s JAMES AGBEREBI highlights FIVE countries who failed to qualify for the World Cup by losing steam in the final stages of the qualifiers…
TUNISIA (2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers)
Tunisia were on the verge of denying Nigeria the chance of playing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa but blew it at the final hurdle.
Both teams were drawn alongside Mozambique and Kenya in Group B with Tunisia staying top of the table right from matchday one only to relinquish top spot on the final day of the qualifiers.
Tunisia on 11 points and two points ahead of Nigeria (on nine points), going into the last group games, the North Africans needed a win to clinch the group’s sole ticket but lost 1-0 away to Mozambique while Nigeria beat Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
CAMEROON (2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers)
After faltering at the early stages of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, Cameroon were able to bounce back and needed a home win in their last Group C game against Egypt in Yaounde to secure a spot in Germany.
But to the dismay of everyone inside the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Cameroon were forced to a 1-1 draw by Egypt who were already out of the race to qualify, thereby losing the ticket to Cote d’Ivoire.
Going into the game against Egypt, Cameroon on 20 points needed an outright win to topple Cote d’Ivoire on 22 points following their 3-1 win against Sudan in Omdurman.
Roudolphe Douala gave Cameroon the lead on 20 minutes but Mohamed Shawky equalised on 79 minutes to make it 1-1. Despite Cameroon being awarded a 95th minute penalty, Pierre Wome hit the spot kick against the post.
LIBERIA (2002 FIFA Wold Cup Qualifier)
A George Weah inspired Liberian Lone Star almost made history by qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan but falterd when it mattered most.
Going into the penultimate game of the group games (matchday seven), Liberia were on 12 points, two points ahead of Nigeria who had 10 points. Liberia needed to beat Ghana to boost their chance of qualifying for their first ever World Cup but lost 2-1 at home to the Black Stars while Nigeria thrashed Sudan 4-0 away.
Nigeria went on to beat Ghana 3-0 in their last group game to usurp Liberia and pick one of Africa’s tickets for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
COTE D’IVOIRE (1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier)
Cote d’Ivoire looked a sure bet to qualify ahead of Nigeria and Algeria in their group for the USA 1994 World Cup.
African champions Cote d’Ivoire drew 1-1 away against Algeria and beat Nigeria 2-1 in Abidjan in their first two games.
Their third game was at home against Algeria which they also won 1-0 thanks to a late goal.
Against Nigeria which was their last group game, Cote d’Ivoire were hammered 4-1 by a resurgent Nigerian side who didn’t have the best of starts in the qualifiers.
Despite losing to Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire were still in the driving seat as they had five points, one point ahead of Nigeria.
For Cote d’Ivoire to qualify, Algeria must beat Nigeria. But Nigeria forced Algeria to a 1-1 away draw to qualify for their first ever World Cup.
FRANCE (1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier)
France’s failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in USA was one of Europe’s biggest shocks in the qualifiers.
Parading the likes of Eric Cantona, Didier Deschamps, Jean-Pierre Papin, Bernard Lama, David Ginola, Marcel Desailly, Emmanuel Petit and Laurent Blanc, France were grouped with Sweden, Israel, Bulgaria, Finland, Austria.
And after doing so well in the course of the qualifiers, all France needed in their last two games which incidentally were at home against Israel and Bulgaria, was just one point.
Surprisingly, France lost both games: 3-2 to Israel (Israel’s only win in the group) and 2-1 to Bulgaria to painfully miss out of qualification.