Wednesday’s round of 32 matches in the 2022 Aiteo Federation Cup competition really lived up to the contest’s biggest feature of surprise element, where underdogs give no respect to big names.
The competition’s round of 64 a week earlier, where the big names make their entry, looked to be too easy for the top-flight sides from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
The likes of Shooting Stars FC, who never got to the national stage, and new NPFL champions Rivers United who withdrew last week were spared the ignominy of being eliminated by underdogs though.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Wednesday’s games did the expected though, with Cup-holders Bayelsa United and former champions Rangers International being sent packing.
Two-time CAF Champions League winners Enyimba International and 2022/2023 CAF Confederation Cup aspirants Remo Stars were also victims after the matches threw up interesting results.
Bayelsa United, even though not in the top-flight but a big name in Nigerian football, fell to fellow Nigeria National League (NNL) side Green Berets.
Rangers International were eliminated by former fellow NPFL side Heartland FC, just like Kwara United and Remo Stars who fell to other top-flight sides.
But Nasarawa United, former continental competition campaigners, did not have it easy qualifying against Sokoto United.
They had to go through the “shooting range”, the stage where penalty kick shootouts go to the sudden death level.
Former Cup champions Bendel Insurance also had to endure a penalty kicks shootout against Ottasolo FC in order to go through.
Now, the round of 16 is expected to produce more of the surprises even though the number of underdogs still in the competition has thinned out.
Green Berets FC, Akure City Academy, Kogi United and DMD FC have top-flight opponents to contend with, but their opponents will still be wary of them.
They only need to look back at what happened in the round of 32 to keep looking over their shoulders.
The other four fixtures look well-balanced, with past meetings and association through the NPFL helping to form long-standing rivalry.
But noteworthy is the fact that eight of the 16 fixtures in the round of 32 were decided with penalty kick shootouts.
It is a pointer to what is likely to happen in this round of 16.
Below are the results from the Round of 32, as well as the Round of 16 fixtures:
Bayelsa United 0 Green Berets 0 (4-5 penalty kicks)
Enyimba International 0 Niger Tornadoes 0 (5-6 penalty kicks)
Doma United 0 Lobi Stars 3
Akure City Academy 2 Bendel Insurance Feeders 1
Rangers International 1 Heartland FC 1 (7-8 penalty kicks)
Sunshine Stars 5 Rovers FC 1
Cynosure FC 1 Katsina United 3
Remo Stars 0 Akwa United 3
Kogi United 2 Kanta United 2 (5-4 penalty kicks)
DMD FC 0 Housing Corporation 0 (4-2 penalty kicks)
Zamfara United 0 Kano Pillars 5
Fulfill FC 0 El-Kanemi Warriors 1
Kwara United 1 Wikki Tourists 1 (3-4 penalty kicks)
Bendel Insurance 1 Ottasolo FC 1 (4-3 penalty kicks)
Sokoto United 1 Nasarawa United 1 (10-11 penalty kicks)
Green Berets vs Niger Tornadoes
Lobi Stars vs Akure City Academy
Heartland FC vs Dakkada FC
Sunshine Stars vs Katsina United
Akwa United vs Kogi United
DMD FC vs Kano Pillars
El-Kanemi Warriors vs Wikki Tourists
Bendel Insurance vs Nasarawa United