COUNTDOWN AGAINST ALGERIA
- Another Algerian star player ruled out
Nigeria’s Super Eagles arrived Uyo lastnight briming with confidence and ready to pick another vital win against Algeria this Saturday in Russia 2018 WorldCup qualifying match at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
The Nigerian team will walk onto the refurbished pitch on superior ground against the Fennecs of Algeria, going by the statistics of their previous encounters.
Till date, there has been 17 clashes between both teams (all at competitive level), with Nigeria winning eight times, drawing three and losing six. And Nigeria captain Mikel John Obi was less than three years old the last time Algeria defeated Nigeria, in the final of the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations in Algiers.
Super Eagles’ current goalkeepers’ trainer Aloysius Agu was the Eagles’ goalkeeper and captain that day, 16th March 1990. It was a tough game at the July 5 Stadium in Algiers, but the Fennecs won their first (and still only) Africa title when Cherif Oudjani’s long range effort beat Agu for the only goal of the match.
At that same competition, Algeria had beaten the Eagles 5-1 in the opening match. But the Eagles would remember that and pay back the Fennecs when lashing their hosts 5-2 in Oran in a 2006 World Cup qualifier on 4th September 2005.
The first clash between both countries was on 10th January 1973, during the football event of the 2nd All-Africa Games that Nigeria hosted. The match ended 2-2. Seven years later, the Green Eagles would thrash the Algerians 3-0 to lift their first Africa Cup title.
In their last four confrontations, the Eagles have enjoyed a winning streak against the Algerians, which is more than the three consecutive wins Algeria had over Nigeria between October 1981 and March 1982. In the qualifying race for Espana ’82, Algeria beat Nigeria 2-0 in Lagos and 2-1 in Constantine, and the Fennecs then came from behind to edge the Eagles 2-1 at the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya.
This Saturday, Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho looks set to lead Nigeria’s charge for goals against the North Africans side with Victor Moses and Oghenekaro Etebo good to also start.
The 20-year-old Iheanacho has scored in the team’s last four matches and in yesterday’s morning training he led attack while Watford ace Odion Ighalo, back in the squad after he missed last month’s game in Zambia, featured for the second team.
Ighalo has failed to deliver in a green-white-green shirt of Nigeria and he is currently struggling to score goals in his second season in the Premier League.
In a related development, Napoli FC and Algeria defender, Faouzi Ghoulam has joined the list of players sidelined with injury he suffered a groin injury wednesday.
Twenty-five-year-old left back Ghoulam has been an injury concern and now it has been announced he is out of the clash in Uyo and will not be on the flight to Nigeria tonight.
Ghoulam’s withdrawal has made it increasingly difficult for coach Georges Leekens to line up a formidable after three top players were also lost to injuries earlier this week.
Midfielders Rachid Ghezzal and Ryad Boudebouz as well as striker Hilal Soudani opted out of the World Cup qualifier in Nigeria on account of injury.
Ghezzal and Boudebouz were examined by Algeria team doctors before they were excused from the training camp, while Dynamo Zagreb striker Soudani did not even fly down to Algiers.
They have since been replaced by Baghdad Bounedjah, Yassine Benzia and Ismael Bennacer.