Kunle Adewale and Edhowo Enakeno
The Super Eagles of Nigeria will today at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, take on the Desert Foxes of Algeria in a game Nigeria must win to be in a good stead of hoisting her flag at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
In a telephone chat with THISDAY ahead of today’s crunchy battle, former Nigeria international, Friday Ekpo said, “Every footballer holds his country’s colour in high esteem and therefore, their priority is to make great impact and make sure his country wins. The coach will be under slight pressure no doubt, but he should keep to his game plan and be focused to get the desired result.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the caliber of players invited to prosecute the game, he reacted thus:
“The players invited are what we have for now and we must maximise their potentials and what we owe them is our support for them to achieve their goal of coming to play for the country,” Ekpo said.
On whether Algeria can count on their past successes over Nigeria in today’s game, he replied, “We keep playing them every now and then. But it is not the same players we played then. its a different ball game and mindset. We just needed to concentrate on our own plan, map out our strategy and concentrate. Our attitude should be to win at the end of the day I believe Nigeria would come out victorious”.
The former Shell of Gabon player, however dismissed the insinuation that Nigeria is playing in a very difficult group ‘group of death’, saying, “If you want to be a true champion you must be ready to play the best in the continent, and I strongly believe Nigeria would emerge tops from the group.”
The team had been involved in vigorous training in Abuja under the watchful eyes of the technical crew led by Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr before jetting out to Uyo on Wednesday.
Super Eagles players have been in fine form for their various clubs, but Rohr is not carried away by that but had rather called on his team to stay grounded.
A win against the Greens in Uyo will put the three-time African kings in good position to reach Russia 2018.But, while acknowledging Nigeria ‘s confidence, the German added that there was still plenty of work to do before facing the north African giants.
“I believe all the games in this group will be difficult to win because all the four teams are very strong. Algeria which is the number one team in Africa must be disappointed for dropping points at home against Cameroon. 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 told Caf website.
“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.”
On the reported injury scare in the Eagles’ camp, media officer for the team, Toyin Ibitoye said there was no cause for worries as the players excused from Tuesday’s sessions would all have a go in Wednesday’s activities. They (Brown Ideye, Leon Balogun and Shehu Abudulahi) are all good to go, the coach only left them out of Tuesday’s training as a precautionary measure,” he explained.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, Algeria Football Federation President, Mohamed Raouraouia has tasked the Fennecs to go for a win against the Super Eagles. The North Africans drew their first fixture against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 1-1 in Bilda and needed to win the tie to boost their qualification chances.
And Raouraouia has charged the players to give their all in the game and ensure they made their nation proud. “You have a duty to come back with a positive result from the match against Nigeria,” Raouraouia was quoted as telling the players.
“All the Algerian people are behind you. They support you and hope for a good result in Nigeria. We must not disappoint, it’s all I can say. The World Cup is an important event that should not be missed. You should know that everyone is behind you,” added the Algerian FF president.
However, former Nigerian international, Kanu Nwankwo, believes the Super Eagles have a great chance of beating Algeria’s Desert Warriors today in Uyo. Kanu says the attitude and body language of the players fills him with enormous confidence that a win could be on the cards for the Super Eagles today.
“I can see the joy and happiness in our Super Eagles players, that’s sign of good team spirit and the will show it in the game against Algeria,” Kanu wrote on his official twitter account, @papilokanu.