Ahead of Saturday’s FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar African qualifying cracker against the Lone Star of Liberia, Super Eagles head coach has unleashed a ‘killer’ squad headed by Ahmed Musa and 20 other invited players for the encounter.
The Super Eagles had a gym session at the hotel in the morning and were scheduled to train in the evening at the Grand Stade de Tanger (also known as Stade Ibn Batouta), a 45,000 –capacity facility that was opened in April 2011 but which will, sadly, be empty when Nigeria and Liberia tackle each other for three precious points on Saturday. ‘Hosts’ Liberia have made no move to get the Confederation of African Football to approve crowd attendance at the Day 5 game.
Nigeria need all three points from the encounter with the Lone Star to stay in contention in the knockout phase of the World Cup qualifiers, set for March 2022. Only the group winners will proceed to the knockout phase that will be a home-and-away exercise to produce Africa’s five flagbearers in Qatar.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, who hosts Central African Republic in Mindelo on Saturday, have seven points and will be hoping the Super Eagles stumble against Liberia.
However, Nigeria’s Super Eagles have scaled the hurdle in their last three major qualifying campaigns with matches to spare, and are confident they could reach the knockout round before the final day of the qualifiers by beating Liberia and hope Cape Verde loose at home.
Nigeria reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals with a match to spare; a feat repeated in the qualifying series for the 2019 AFCON. For the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, the Super Eagles qualified with two matches to spare.
The Lone Star, bottom of Group C of the African series with three points, have a very remote chance of qualifying even though they play their final two matches at ‘home’ in Tangier, which is the venue they opted for as home ground after CAF ruled that there is no venue in the whole of Liberia fit and proper to host international matches.
Nigeria, the Lone Star’s opponents on Saturday and group leaders, already have nine points. But the Super Eagles have a home game against second –placed Cape Verde in Lagos on Tuesday next week.
After the session with the three –time African champions, the Lone Star will remain in Tangier for their final game of the campaign, against the Central African Republic, also on Tuesday next week.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, with seven points, are at home to the Beasts on the island of Mindelo, hoping to garner another three points that could make the final Group C encounter with Nigeria in Lagos a cliff-hanger.
Super Eagles Squad
Goalkeepers: John Noble (Enyimba FC); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany)
Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Galsgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)