The Super Eagles of Nigeria kick starts its 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign in Russia, as Nigerians hope for a good outing
By Akinwale Kasali
This is no doubt a litmus test for Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr. Come Sunday October 6, 2016, the tutored Rohr side will lock horns against the Chipolopolo of Zambia in Ndola, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying group phase match. Rohr had admitted that much still needed to be done on the national team to get it ready for the task of qualifying for the Russia 2018 World Cup. But he added that the task has been made easy by the abundance of talents available to him.
The German admits that it would take the Eagles sometime to get back their rhythm, saying, “a team that failed to qualify for AFCON needs confidence, and the confidence is coming back gradually
This will be the second time the teams will tackle each other in three years. At the 2013 African Cup of Nations championship in South Africa, both sides played a 1-1 draw in Nelspruit at the group stage of the championship. This time around, both teams will be gunning to get the sole ticket for the global fiesta to be hosted by Russia for the first time.
Rohr will be guiding the national team for the second time after a successful 1-0 win against the Taifa’s of Tanzania in the 2017 AFCON qualifiers, played at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. The French-German tactician will be aspiring to record his second win with his new team, as well as winning his first away match.
The Zambians are not resting on their oars. Just like the Super Eagles, the Chipolopolo of Zambia also failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON tournament in Gabon, planning to make amends and put smiles on the faces of their teeming fans with a win over the Nigerians and possibly grabbing the world cup ticket at the expense of Algeria and Cameroon.
President of Zambia Football Association, Andrew Kamanga, insisted that their failure to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations will not stop them from beating Nigeria in their 2018 World Cup qualifier in October.The Chipolopolo were held to a 1-1 draw by Kenya, at the Levy Nwanawasa Stadium.The result saw them finish third in Group E, behind Guinea Bissau and Congo.
But Kamanga says they will recover in time for the qualifier against the Super Eagles. Speaking to Zambia post, Kamanga said: “We can’t afford to do that. We can’t lose hope before the first game is played. The players have the belief, the coaches have the belief, why should we doubt?”
He also praised the work done so far by the caretaker coach, George Lwandamina. “The current coach has done a good job thus far even at his club, so even if the new coach doesn’t come, it changes nothing. We have to prepare well, plan and that’s where we come in as an association. So, either way, we have to be ready,” Kamanga said.
As usual, some of the Super Eagles players had boasted that victory is assured against the Zambians, and are also optimistic that the ticket is already theirs. Looking at the present FIFA monthly ranking which moved Nigeria four places up, to place 62 in the latest FIFA ranking could be an added advantage to the Super Eagles, but some analysts and soccer enthusiasts said that the ranking was just mere formality, that the most important thing is for the national side to pick the maximum points in Ndola, as a morale boaster for the team ahead of their other matches with Algeria and Cameroon.
Super Eagles goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme has said that the team is determined and have shifted their attention to their forthcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Zambia in Lusaka. The Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper has become an integral part of the Super Eagles squad since taking over from Vincent Enyeama.
On his twitter handle, Ikeme said that the team appreciated the fans support, and that the team and the coaching staff are poised on getting the maximum points in Ndola, and are preparing and concentrating hard on overcoming Zambia.
Rohr has however, named a strong 23-man team that will engage the Chipolopolo in the crunchy tie. The list has; Carl Ikeme (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England); Emmanuel Daniel (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); and Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Ifeanyi Ubah FC, Nigeria) are the invited goalkeepers).
In the defense line are; Leon Balogun (FSV Mainz 05, Germany); William Troost-Ekong (Haugesund FC, Norway); Kenneth Omeruo (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Jamiu Aliu (Kano Pillars, Nigeria); Abdullahi Shehu (Anorthosis Famagusta, Cyprus); Musa Muhammed (Istanbul Basaksehir, Turkey); Elderson Echiejile (Standard Liege, Belgium) and Kingsley Madu (SV Zulte Waregem, Belgium).
John Mikel Obi, the skipper of the team who is yet to play a match for his English club side, Chelsea tops the list of invited midfielders for the ‘battle of Ndola’. Others are; Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor, Turkey); Wilfried Ndidi (RCK Genk, Belgium); Anderson Esiti (KAA Gent, Belgium)and Nosa Igiebor (Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel);
The nation promising youngster duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi (Manchester City& Arsenal, England) top the list of forward, invited for the cracker. Others are Brown Aide Ideye (Olympiakos, Greece); Victor Moses (Chelsea, England); Ahmed Musa (Leicester City, England) and Isaac Success (Watford, England) complete the team.