AFCON 2019 QUALIFIER
*To be flown to Asaba today ahead of Friday’s dead-rubber clash
Despite not having anything to play for beyond pride, the Pirates of Seychelles flew into Abuja yesterday for Friday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying clash with the Super Eagles.
According to Ademola Olajire, the Communications Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Seychelles’ 29-man delegation that flew into Abuja aboard an Ethiopian Airline flight yesterday afternoon is to be flown to Asaba, venue of the dead-rubber game this morning.
Super Eagles emerged Group E leaders on 10 points and a ticket to the finals. South Africa’s Bafana Bafana who are second behind Eagles are having nine points with Libya third on seven points. Seychelles’ Pirates are out of reckoning on just a point.
Only South Africa’s victory over Libya away in Tunisia on Friday can drop Nigeria to the runners-up position of the group going into Friday’s Draw ceremony at CAF’s headquarters in Cairo.
Meanwhile, Super Eagles handlers now have full compliments of all the 23 players invited for the AFCON 2019 qualifier against Seychelles.
Reports from Asaba yesterday evening indicated that the last five players to join Eagles camp in Asaba include; Hapoel Beer Sheva’s John Ogu, Stoke City’s Oghenekaro Etebo, Anorthosis Famagusta goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, Wolfsburg loanee Victor Osimhen and Galatasaray forward Henry Onyekuru.
Media Officer of the Super Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye confirmed training took place at 4.45pm with all the 23 players present at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, venue of Friday’s clash with the Pirates. The training was open to the media and fans.
Eagles are scheduled to hold three more training sessions before stepping out onto the Stephen Keshi Stadium turf for the AFCON qualifier on Friday.
Coach Gernot Rohr is likely to pay special attention to Akwa United’s Ndifreke Effiong and Brighton’s Leon Balogun due to question marks surrounding their fitness levels.
Effiong sustained a knee injury last weekend in a Nigeria Professional Football League clash with Heartland in Okigwe while Balogun has been inactive since February 6 due to a shoulder injury.
Speaking with reporters after the first training session in Asaba yesterday, Rohr appears to have made a U-turn on completely ruling out the home-based players from the AFCON 2019 party in Egypt later in June.
”We have invited Effiong from Akwa United, so we have four home-based players,” said Rohr at a media parley attended by allnigeriasoccer.com.
”We have Udo, the captain of the U-20 team, who played very well in the last U-20 AFCON, then we also have Ezenwa and Valentine who is a tall defender and good.
”There is competition for our list for the Africa Cup of Nations.”
The matches against Seychelles and Egypt should serve as an audition for Ikouwem Udo, Valentine Ozornwafor and Ndifreke Effiong to earn spots on the AFCON roster, given that Ikechukwu Ezenwa will be heading to Egypt as one of the three goalkeepers.
After the AFCON 2019 clash with Seychelles, Super Eagles are to also play Pharaohs of Egypt four days later in an international friendly on Tuesday, March 25 as part of the team’s preparations for the finals.