Nigeria’s Super Eagles would be intent on preserving a 31-year lead when they take on a highly improved Chipolopolo of Zambia in tomorrow’s World Cup 2018 qualifier in Ndola, Zambia.
The significance of the game is not lost on the team’s captain, John Mikel Obi, who conceded that, though the Zambians have not edged Nigeria in any of their games in the last 31 years, this would be different, because it is a World Cup qualifier.
“We are all looking forward to the qualifying matches, starting with Sunday’s game in Zambia. Each of us knows what it means – big battle that we have to win. We are ready for the challenge.”
For the Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr, his side would have to be more careful and precise if they want to maintain their 31-year-old lead.
“Yes, they have changed coach and should expect a different thing but the good thing is that they are the same players. We know that they are very strong in attack and we have worked on the best tactics to win them but, indisputably, they are also a strong side.
“Having missed the Nations Cup, Zambia will want to make a statement with the World Cup qualifiers, because they also want to win. They are as motivated as we are, but I think that we are hungrier than they are,” he added.
In the first-ever encounter between both nations, in a 1974 African Nations Cup qualifier, Zambia walloped Nigeria 5-1, in Lusaka on July 15th, 1973. Nigeria’s 3-2 win in the return leg in Lagos two weeks later proved useless.
Both teams battled to a 0-0 draw in Accra at the 1978 Cup of Nations, but Zambia then gained two successive 3-0 wins over Nigeria – a friendly in Lusaka in 1981 and a group phase clash at the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya. That was the last time Zambia beat Nigeria.
However, the Zambians have not beaten the Eagles in a competitive match in the past 31 years.
Nigeria edged a memorable Africa Cup of Nations final in Tunis, Tunisia in 1994, before prevailing over the Zambians 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the quarter-final of the 2010 Cup of Nations in Angola. In all, both nations have met 16 times, with Nigeria recording five wins.
Nigeria would host Algeria on November 12, before playing four more games next year.
The last time both teams met was on January 25, 2013,in Nelspruit, South Africa, during the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian delegation departed the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport this morning, to arrive in time for an evening training session at the Levy Nwanawasa Stadium, Ndola, Zambia.