By Olawale Ayeni, Abuja
Reigning African champions Algeria have replaced Cote d’Ivoire as the opponents of the Super Eagles in the first of two international friendly matches arranged by the Nigeria Football Federation to be played in Austria next month. The matches fall within the FIFA window for international matches and have been approved by world football –governing body, FIFA and CAF.
The Federation Ivorienne de Football, on 22nd September sent to the NFF a letter regretting their inability to send a team to Austria for the game as earlier agreed, citing “internal problems.” However, what at first seemed a disappointment turned into delight as stronger Algeria immediately accepted to tango with three-time African champions Nigeria on 9th October at the Jacques Lemans Arena. This followed a phone call from President of the NFF, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick to his Algerian opposite number, Mr. Kheireddine Zetchi.
“We have permission from our government to travel from Algeria to Austria and our country has reopened international flights. We also would like to confirm that FIFA match agent Me Jairo Pachon is authorised to carry on all the required work and planning in Austria in order to stage this event,” wrote Mohamed Saad, General Secretary of the Federation Algerienne de Football.
The clash in Austria next month would be the fourth between the Super Eagles and the Fennecs in three years. Both teams were in the same qualifying pool for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with the Eagles trouncing the Fennecs 3-1 in Uyo before a 1-1 draw in Constantine that mattered little as Nigeria already booked a ticket to Russia before that final-day encounter.
The two teams were again at each other’s jugular in the semi final of last year’s African Cup of Nations in Egypt, the Fennecs edging it 2-1 from a free-kick just outside the box at the death, and then going on to defeat Senegal in the final to clinch their second continental title.
On Friday, the NFF commended the Embassy of Austria in Nigeria for the dispatch with which the embassy attended to technical and backroom staff of the Super Eagles who are heading to Austria for the two games. All the officials have been issued their visas to travel.
Midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo, who has only recently arrived in Turkey from Spain to join top club Galatasaray, has already been issued his visa to enter Austria.
Tunisia, rated number two in Africa and 26th in the world, will be the Super Eagles’ second opponents at the Jacques Lemans Arena on 13th October.