…We’ll fight till the end –Martins
Sixteen months after crashing out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will today begin their campaign for a ticket to the 2018 World Cup when they clash with Swaziland in the first leg of a two-legged elimination match in Lobamba.
Swaziland’s Sihlangi Semnikati will be looking to inflict a first competitive defeat on their more illustrious Nigerian opponents, and not oblivious of this, the Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh insists only “the best will play” against Swaziland.
“It doesn’t matter to me if you have been playing ten years before or you have not been playing…it doesn’t matter,” he said. “The best will play. It also does not matter if you are scoring 50 goals, 30 or 20 goals at (your club).
“What is important is how you adapt to our style of play which will enable your teammates to play well with you.
“We are not going to have one star player and everyone will be playing for him. We will have 11 or 14 stars as the case maybe.”
Oliseh is in Lobamba with a 23- man team comprised of an admixture of the established, the relatively new and returnee players.
Some of the established players include captain Ahmed Musa, John Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Godfrey Oboabona and Efe Ambrose. Odion Ighalo, Moses Simon, goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, Kelechi Iheanacho and homeboy Chima Akas lead the pack of the burgeoning national team players.
Returning striker, Obafemi Martins, who is set to make his first appearance for the Super Eagles since March 2013, would not underrate the Swazis but is confident the Eagles will scale the hurdle.
“With all due respect, I don’t expect them to pose so much of a threat but we still have to approach the game with all the seriousness it deserves, as underdogs they have nothing to lose hence they will play with freedom.
“We are an experienced side and that gives us an edge but we have to be ready to fight till the end, we can’t afford to start badly,” said Martins.
As Swaziland prepare to take on Nigeria for the first time, Super Eagles boss Oliseh has shaken off a recent bout of illness to be in the dugout.
The Swaziland coach, Harris Bulunga, has however warned his side to be wary of the threat Nigeria will pose, while remaining hopeful the hosts can cause another upset.
“We are facing one of the superpowers of African football so we cannot get carried away and go out and attack even though we are playing at home,” he said.
“So the nation is in prayer, of course that at least in the two legs we will manage to win one of the matches. It’s going to be a tough match but we believe that we can give a good showing.” Swaziland are ranked 130th in the world compared to Nigeria’s 59.
– Oladipo Okubanjo