Iheanacho, Iwobi, Others Arrive for World Cup Cracker


Femi Solaja

In-form strikers, Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, are among the early birds to arrive Super Eagles camp yesterday for the all-important FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying match against Fennecs of Algeria in Uyo on Saturday.

Super Eagles Spokesman, Toyin Ibitoye, confirmed the arrivals monday in a telephone interview.
He said all hands are on deck to ensure smooth camp programme ahead of the match in the refurbished Uyo Stadium.

A win for the Super Eagles against the Maghreb nation will put Nigeria in firm control of Group B in the race for Russia 2018 ticket.

It will be the first time since France ’98 qualifying series that Nigeria will not need any permutation as a parameter for qualification in a round-robin continental event.
A hard fought 2-1 win against Zambia in Ndola on Match-day 1 had put the team in cruise control ahead of the remaining five matches to be played.

Other players in the Eagles’ camp as at last night include goalkeepers Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Ibitoye also confirmed that almost all the players including skipper John Mikel Obi and his deputy, Ahmed Musa were expected to join on-form Chelsea’s Victor Moses, Watford striker Odion Ighalo and Germany-based defender Leon Balogun in camp last night.
Super Eagles will be without first choice goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.

“We have confirmation from the technical crew that the rest of the players will arrive today after playing for their respective clubs over the weekend,” Ibitoye responded last night.
Although training camp in Abuja officially opened yesterday and the squad is expected to depart for match venue Uyo on Thursday. Incidentally, the Algerians are also scheduled to arrive via a charted flight to the venue of the match same day.

Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, has admitted his lads face a very daunting task at home against the Algerian side on Saturday.

In an interview with cafonline.com monday, Rohr expressed hope that Nigeria will win to consolidate the leadership of the World Cup qualifying series.

“It will be difficult against Algeria because they are number one in Africa but we will try to beat them to have a good position in our qualifying group.”

“I believe all the games in this group will be difficult to win because all the four teams are very strong,” he told cafonline.com.

“Algeria which is the number one team in Africa must be disappointed for dropping points at home against Cameroun.

“They will come to Uyo very well prepared against us. So mathematically, it was a good operation for us that we won in Ndola; and we are the only teams that have three points after the first round of matches.”

“The preparation has been to look at our players in their clubs because we cannot play any friendly match,” he continued.

“We have to analyse the matches and we also have to keep eyes on our players because we have started building a new team with many young players.

“It was good we have two wins after two matches (Tanzania and Zambia) which is good for our confidence but there is still a lot of work to do.”

Meanwhile, an injury crisis has hit Algeria with no fewer than four key players doubtful for Saturday’s World Cup showdown.

Faouzi Ghoulam, Ryad Boudebouz, Hilal Soudani and Rachid Ghezzal are all uncertain for the match due to injuries.

Ghoulam and Boudebouz played for their clubs Napoli and Montpellier respectively this past weekend, but joined the training camp Sunday with abductor problems.

Incidentally, Boudebouz was man of the match after he netted a brace for French club Montpellier.
Dynamo Zagbreb striker Soudani and Ghezzal from Lyon did not even feature for their clubs this past weekend on account of injury.

Last-minute call-up and Angers of France defender Mehdi Tahrat is also nursing a groin problem and so did not feature for his club in their last game.

Top stars Islam Slimani and Nabil Bentaleb have also endured injury scares most recently.
Leicester City striker Slimani missed two matches due to injury, while Bentaleb hurt his knee in action for German club Schalke 04 before he recovered in time on Sunday to fire his fifth goal in six matches on loan from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.