Tricky test for Nigeria’s national soccer team in preliminary World Cup qualifier
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have been presented with a delicate hurdle in the shape of Swaziland as second round pairings emerged in the race for tickets to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Super Eagles, according to the fixtures released yesterday, will have to edge out Swaziland in a two-legged fixture to qualify for the group phase of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Swaziland’s Isihlangu defeated Djibouti 2-1 in Lobamba on Saturday to conclude an 8-1 aggregate triumph over the East Africans and earn the right to face five-time World Cup finalists Nigeria twice during the month of November.
Swaziland won the first leg in Djibouti 6-0 and were never threatened at the Somhlolo Stadium in the delayed return leg. The Super Eagles drew bye in the first round and will fly into Lobamba in the first week of November for the first leg, buoyed by a 3-0 victory over rivals Cameroon in a friendly in Belgium a week ago.
The Super Eagles have played at the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 World Cup finals, reaching the Round of 16 in 1994, 1998 and 2014. Meanwhile, the home-based Super Eagles will depart for Burkina Faso on Thursday for the reverse fixture of the 2016 Championship for African Nations (CHAN) qualifier.
The Eagles defeated Les Etalons 2-0 on Saturday in Port Harcourt and the overall winners of this fixture will qualify for next year’s CHAN in Rwanda. A squad of 18 players from the 23 currently in Abuja camp of the Eagles will be named for the trip to Ouagadougou.
Coach Sunday Oliseh, it was learnt, will stick with the team who were involved in the first leg in Port Harcourt. Goalkeepers Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Femi Thomas, defenders Austin Oboroakpo, Chima Akas, Orji Kalu, Jamiu Alimi as well as midfielders Bature Yaro, Ifeanyi Matthew, Usman Mohammed and Paul Onobi will make the trip.
Strikers Gbolahan Salami, Chisom Chikatara, Ezekiel Bassey and Osas Okoro have also been penciled down for the trip.
One of Oliseh’s assistants, Jean Francois Losciuto, has branded Burkina Faso coach, Traore Drissa “disrespectful” following declarations made by the Burkinabe gaffer on Saturday.
Drissa described Nigeria’s Super Eagles as “not special” adding that his side will overturn the 2-0 first leg scoreline inside 30 minutes when both sides meet in a second leg 2016 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) qualifier.
– Oladipo Okubanjo