Nigeria’s Super Eagles will begin their quests to qualify for a seventh FIFA World Cup when the Gernot Rohr side face the Lone Stars of Liberia today at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
The match will kick-off 5pm Nigerian time.
The football governing body, grouped Nigeria in Group C, alongside Liberia, Cape Verde and the Central African Republic (CAR).
After the game against Liberia, the three time African champions will leave for Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, for their duel with that country in what is the match-day two of the qualifiers, where the top countries in each of the 10 groups will be drawn to play on home and away basis where the five remaining teams will qualify for the World Cup proper.
Nigeria and Liberia are not new to each others. Both countries have met five times with Nigeria winning on two occasions ,drawn two and lost once to the Lone Stars. In the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, George Weah and compatriots were on the verge of picking the tickets until the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Sunday Oliseh put and end to the dream.
Since qualifying for her first World Cup in USA 94 with the likes of late Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, Uche Okechukwu, Finidi George and others the Super Eagles have not missed any World Cup finals except that of Germany 2006 and getting the Qatar ticket will the seventh appearance for the Super Eagles.
The Super Eagles are the top seed in this year’s group and are also not lacking in the talents to prosecute this World Cup qualifiers with such stars like Victor Osimhen, Ahmed Musa, Paul Onuachu, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi, among others but most times under Rohr the team has largely been unable to fulfill its potentials.
The Eagles on paper look set to devour the Lone Stars. On a good day, the likes of Osimhen, Iheanacho, Musa can wreck any team but unfulfilled promises over outstanding allowances and bonuses have the morale of the boys low though NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, recently promised that the issue will be looked at and addressed promptly.
The Gernot Rohr side are coming into this encounter on the heels of a poor form- a winless in their previous three matches, having lost to Mexico and Cameroun in Austria in their last game which were a friendly matches two months ago.
The Franco-German coach in his media parley ahead of the game said, “we cannot afford to underestimate Liberia, whose state president is legendary striker, George Weah.
“We can’t underrate anybody, especially after what happened a few months ago in Benin City [4-4 draw with Sierra Leone],” Rohr said.
“Liberia have had a good preparation and president George Weah has ensured they have a good team, so it won’t be easy against them.”
Though it will take a miracle for the Lone Stars to qualify for the World Cup and 2022 may not be an exception. Their poor forms is a source of worried, they lost four out of five matches played in all competitions, with just one win that was achieved against Libya in a friendly match.
Coach Butler is not unperturbed about the results and for see a good result in Lagos.
Speaking on the upcoming matches, former international Mutiu Adepoju popularly called headmaster urged the players to remain cool headed and avoid underrating their opponents.
“We have the material to qualify us early but I want the players to respect their opponents and remain humble in order to achieve that. We are better than a lot of the teams but we can only qualify if we remain committed and avoid underrating them,” Mutiu said.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football has approved a request by the Nigeria Football Federation for the players to wear black armbands at the match, in honour of Nigeria legend Thompson Usiyen, who died in the State of California, USA on Tuesday. Usiyen, described as a goal-a-game forward for the Eagles in the late 1970s, died of colon cancer.
The gesture also simultaneously honours the memory of Brigadier-General Dominic Obukadata Oneya, former Chairman of then Nigeria Football Association who died early August.
After Friday’s match, the players from the United Kingdom will fly back to base, with the rest travelling to the island of Mindelo on Sunday night for Tuesday’s clash with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in a Day 2 encounter.