The Nigeria’s Super Eagles will trade-tackle the Three Lions of England in a friendly affair at the Wembley Stadium, this weekend. Both teams are using the match to fine-tune their tactics for the forthcoming summer FIFA World Cup in Russia.
England coach, Gareth Southgate, having named his final 23-man squad for 2018 Russia soccer showpiece, will want to impress in England’s final home game at the national stadium before the tournament. As Nigeria’s coach, Gernot Rohr, there are still many tees to be crossed with a key player – Wilfred Ndidi and Moses Simon still on a rehabilitation track.
Southgate will be confident of a win with a talented young squad following a pain-free qualification process, but the Super Eagles will want to make a statement with a promising squad of their own.
England and Nigeria have faced each other twice: the two teams drew 0-0 at the 2002 World Cup, while the Three Lions won a friendly 1-0 back in 1994.
Just like the Three Lions, the Eagles are dreaming of big things to come in Russia, despite both teams being ‘blessed’ differently with intricate opposition in the group stage.
Nigeria must negotiate the obstacles offered by two-time world champions and reigning world vice champions Argentina, hard-as-nails eastern Europeans Croatia and an Iceland squad that stunned England and world football in the Round of 16 at the 2016 European Championship in France. England must sort matters out with strong African opponents Senegal, Japan and Panama.
They have never won the FIFA World Cup, have never even managed to proceed beyond the Round of 16 at the quadrennial tournament, but the Three Lions must beware of a supremely motivated Nigerian squad aiming for the heights in Russia.
A proactive, diligent and equally ambitious NFF leadership signed a landmark agreement with the team on FIFA World Cup funds as far back as November last year, and the process is on to credit the account of the players with what is due to them, more than two weeks before their first match against Croatia in Kaliningrad.
“The most important thing about the World Cup is not the money. But I must admit that the fact that the money is there and we know is there gives us extra energy, extra motivation in the preparations,” forward Kelechi Iheanacho told thenff.com.
Defensive stalwart Kenneth Omeruo, midfielders Ogenyi Onazi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi and forward Odion Ighalo also admitted this much in separate interviews with thenff.com.
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