Three –time African champions Nigeria flew into Johannesburg in the early hours of Friday with a commitment to picking all three points in Saturday’s Group E top-of-the-table clash with South Africa at the FNB Stadium.
Stand –in Captain Ahmed Musa, who is the last Nigerian player to score against South Africa at senior level, when both teams finished a friendly match 1-1 in Nelspruit in March 2015, said that the Super Eagles are not thinking of simply gaining a point from the encounter.
“Our determination is to win and pick our ticket to the AFCON ahead of the final matchday next year. South Africa came to Nigeria to beat us and we are here to return the compliment.
“We will not be playing for a draw. We won in Seychelles and against Libya in Tunisia and we are here to win as well.”
The chartered MAX Air plane that flew the Nigeria delegation, led by NFF 1st Vice President, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, landed at the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport around 3.30am South Africa time, with 23 players, team officials led by Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr, members of the NFF Executive Committee, some members of NFF Management and NFF Staff and a number of media representatives.
The delegation was met on arrival by President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Pinnick, who travelled 24 hours earlier for a meeting with a prospective commercial partner, as well as top officials of the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria and the Nigeria Consulate in Johannesburg.
Ahmed Musa and team –mates had a feel of the turf of the FNB Stadium (nicknamed Soccercity) as from 3pm on Friday.
Musa admits that Saturday’s encounter would not be for the faint –hearted. Nigeria has not beaten South Africa at senior men level in the last four encounters between both nations, though it was in South Africa that Nigeria won her third and last Africa Cup of Nations title in February 2013.
A 2015 AFCON qualifier in Cape Town in September 2014 ended scoreless, before the Bafana Bafana held their ground for a 2-2 draw in Uyo two months later to deny the Super Eagles a place at the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea.
Both teams tied 1-1 in a friendly in Nelspruit in March 2015 before the Bafana shocked the Eagles in Uyo 2-0 on Matchday 1 of the current qualifying series.
“They are a strong team and we will not under –rate them. But we are here for the three points,” Musa emphasized.
Nigeria’S 23 for big match
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United, South Africa); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC)
Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Adeleye Aniyikaye (FC IfeanyiUbah); Semi Ajayi (Rotherham United, England); Bryan Idowu (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Leon Balogun (Brighton & Hove Albion, England); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany)
Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City FC, England); John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Mikel Agu (Vitoria Setubal FC, Portugal)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Al Nasr FC, Saudi Arabia); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (Levante FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi SC, Belgium); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray SK, Turkey); Alex Iwobi (Arsenal FC, England); Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux FC, France); Isaac Success (Watford FC, England); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain)
South Africa’s 23 for big match
Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs); Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United); Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits); Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs); Motjeka Madisha (Mamelodi Sundowns); Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United); Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits); Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates); S’Fiso Hlanti (Bidvest Wits); Lebogang Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns); Buhle Mkhwanazi (Bidvest Wits); Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City); Vincent Pule (Orlando Pirates); Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns); Fortune Makaringa (Maritzburg United); Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United); Samuel Mabunda (Mamelodi Sundowns); Thmebonkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates); Thulani Serero (SBV Vitesse, Netherlands); Themba Zwani (Mamelodi Sundowns); Lebo Mothiba (Racing Club de Strasbourg, France); Dino Ndlovu (Zhejian Greentown, China); Percy Tau (Royal Union Saint, Belgium)