2019 AFCON Qualifier: Mediterranean Knights Try Super Eagles for Size

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The Super Eagles look determined as the three times African champions take on Libya today in one of the Group E qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo. Nigeria failed to qualify for the last two editions of the competition, thus putting pressure on the players to deliver and hoist the country’s flag at the 2019 edition of the biennial competition slated for Cameroon

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will today at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State take on the Mediterranean Knights of Libya in a match the three-time African champions must win to have a chance of qualifying for next year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations billed for Cameroon.

After two matches, Libya top Group E with four points, after demolishing the group’s weeping boy-Seychelles 5-1 and drawing South Africa 0-0, while Nigeria have only three points from the same number of matches, with a loss at home to the Bafana Bafana in their first group game and a 3-0 win against Seychelles in their last game.

That is why today’s encounter against The Mediterranean Knights is a must win for the Super Eagles for them to have a chance of playing in Cameroon’s edition of AFCON next year after missing out of the last two editions.

To ensure that the team enjoys tremendous home support, the Akwa Ibom State Government has slashed from N1,000 to N500 ticket price for the match. The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Sports, Mr. Paul Bassey, disclosed this while interacting with sports journalists in Uyo.

According to him, “Fans will have to pay as low as N500.00 to watch the crucial game from the popular stands as against N1,000.00 while those wishing to see the game from the VIP stands would now pay a token of N1,000.00 as against the initial N2,000.00 price tag.

“The tickets would also be available for sale later in the week. Football fans around the world usually pay huge amounts of money as gate fees to watch international games of this standard, but here in Akwa Ibom, His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel has graciously subsidised the ticket price to N500 for popular stands tickets and N1000 for VIP tickets,” said Bassey.

Also to ensure nothing is taken for granted, Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr had invited a 24 strong team-23 of them foreign professionals that will confront Libya today.

However, like when the team played against Seychelles, team’s captain, China-based Mikel Obi was again omitted from the list.

According to Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye, Rohr dropped Obi from Nigeria’s AFCON qualifier game against Libya because he needs time to recover from injury.

Ibitoye, however, said that Mikel has been “excused” from Eagles’ squad to face Libya. “Mikel has been excused because he is just recovering from injury in China and needs time to fully regain fitness. We expect him to be available for the November game against South Africa,” Ibitoye told BBC Sport.

Mikel, who plays for Chinese club, Tianjin TEDA, has not played for his country since the summer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup, leading to speculation about his international future.

Meanwhile, Super Eagles defender, Kenneth Omeruo has urged Nigerians to come out in support of the Super Eagles today.

“We will be up against a strong Libyan side but we are the Super Eagles and we have a great squad. We will give our all to pick maximum six points from both games,” Omeruo assured.

Speaking in the same vein, Super Eagles forward, Moses Simon has stated that he was confident that Nigeria will pick a ticket to the 2019 AFCON ahead of the clash against Libya.

The Levante of Spain striker said: “We all want to be part of next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. We will take our chances in both games and give our best. We urge our fans to wear green and white and fill up the stadium on match day.”

Interestingly, Libya coach Adel Amrouche had been talking tough ahead of their encounter with the Super Eagles.

Amrouche accused players of the Super Eagles of Nigeria of using ‘Juju’ ahead of the 2019 AFCON qualifiers between the two countries.

Amrouche gave his remarks about the Super Eagles after his side played a goalless draw against South Africa in their second group game of the qualification series.

The result which meant that Libya are on top of Group E with four points same as South Africa but with a better goal difference while the Super Eagles are behind with three points.

In his press conference after the encounter, Amrouche revealed his admiration for his opponents and stated that they were tougher than the Super Eagles.

In a viral video clip upload to Twitter, Amrouche suggested that the Bafana Bafana had better players than Nigeria in today’s clash.

He said, “Believe me, I prefer to play Nigeria than Bafana Bafana because I have this experience to play against Nigeria. For me, Bafana they have fantastic players and its not easy to play Bafana Bafana.”

He further went on to accuse players of the Super Eagles of using juju known as witchcraft.

He said, “I am ready for Nigeria, if they want to play two times in Nigeria, we play two times in Nigeria. They believe on juju too much, and we believe in God. It’s not easy to play in South Africa.”

It, however, came as a shock to observers that barely three days to the encounter between Nigeria and Libya, Amrouche resigned from his position as the head coach of the Libyan national team.

Libyan daily, Alwasat.ly, announced on Tuesday that Amrouche had quit his job after going six months without his salary being paid.

Amrouche was appointed Omar Al- Maryami’s successor in May.

The newspaper also revealed that Al-Maryami will lead the Mediterranean Knights out against Nigeria in Uyo today.

Al-Maryami has already taken charge of the team’s training in Tunisia following the sudden exit of Amrouche.

Meanwhile, former Nigerian international, Henry Nwosu is confident that Rohr’s men will topple the Mediterranean Knights in today’s game in Uyo

After a false start in the qualifiers – losing 2-0 to South Africa – the Super Eagles defeated Seychelles last month to brighten their chances in Group E.

However, Nwosu does not see any upset being caused by the Mediterranean Knights over both legs as he also expects Rohr’s side to see off their remaining oppositions.

“I know Libya have always been a troublesome country for Nigeria when it comes to football but with the way it is now I think our boys will be ready to give them what it takes to qualify because we are trailing so we must do everything humanly possible to see that we win this game,” Nwosu told Goal.com.

“South Africa too is there and we are supposed to beat them and I can’t see us playing any draw with any team again.

“The boys and the coaches have shown that they are ready to go and, as such, I don’t see any team giving us a problem now, whether it is at home or away. But we must be very careful.

“Mikel is not there, no problem and Victor Moses has said he is not playing again – that is a minus on our side. But that would make the other guys step up.

“I once played football and anytime I was put on the bench to come in later, I go inside to show that I should have started this match and that’s what I expect of our boys that’d be playing.

“They should show Nigerians that ‘look, if Moses is not there, if Mikel is not there, we can do better’. So that by the time they come back they will be struggling to enter the team.”

Two teams will progress from the group phase to the tournament scheduled to hold in Cameroon.

Libya are top in the Group E with four points, same as South Africa but with superior goal difference. The Super Eagles are third on the log with three points from two games and they need to win today to have any real chance of making it to AFCON 2019 in Cameroon, while Seychelles are bottom in the standings with no point.