From Joe Apu, Uyo
The Super Eagles last night became the first African side to book their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after a 1-0 win over Zambia in Uyo.
The victory gave them an unassailable lead of Group B ahead of the final round of matches.
Alex Iwobi repeated his feat of being the thorn in the flesh of the Zambians as he scored again just as he did in the first leg in Ndola.
Iwobi came off the bench in the second half to end Zambia’s hope of creating a final day climax on November 6.
Before Iwobi’s strike, Odion Ighalo, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Moses Simon went close for the Super Eagles but failed to score.
Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mwenne produced an acrobatic save to deny Wilfred Ndidi in the second half in a pulsating end-to-end encounter.
Augustine Mulenga thought he had put Zambia ahead in the 22nd minute, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Fashion Sakala, Alex Ng’onga and Enock Mwepu had chances for the Chipolopolo but the 2012 African Champions failed to punish a perplexed Super Eagles defence.
But substitute Iwobi, who had scored in the reverse fixture in Ndola last October, finished off a decent attack to send Nigeria to a third straight World Cup appearance.
Moses had a great opportunity to add a second towards the end, but the Chelsea wing-back slipped inside the box.
Nigeria stay top in Group B and advance with one game to spare from a pool that was dubbed the “Group of Death” and expected to go down to the wire.
Russia will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance at the World Cup. They reached the second round in 1994, 1998 and 2014, but exited the tournament in the group stage in 2002 and 2010.
In the other group game, Cameroon beat Algeria 2-0 at home with goals from Clinton Njie and Franck Tchidjui Pangop.
Reigning African champions Cameroon and Algeria who got to the second round of the last World Cup finals in Brazil have already been eliminated after disappointing campaigns.