By Demola Ojo
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are set to consolidate their lead at the top of their AFCON 2021 qualifying group as they take on the Crocodiles of Lesotho today in Maseru. The Eagles are fresh from their hard-fought come-from-behind victory over the Squirrels of Benin in Uyo on last Wednesday.
Victory in the intense encounter at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium helped the three-time African champions to the top of the qualifying pool as goals from the France –based duo of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu secured a 2-1 win after an early goal by Stephane Sessegnon.
The Crocodiles themselves only just returned from Freetown, where they earned an inspiring point in a 1-1 draw with the Leone Stars last Wednesday too.
Having conceded the opening goal in the 69th minute they looked set for defeat until Thabantso Jane scored the leveller in the third minute of injury time.
Both teams finished with 10 men as Lesotho captain Marepe Basia and Sierra Leone’s George Kweku were sent-off in the 83rd minute. As a result, Basia is suspended for this game due to his dismissal.
Today’s encounter will kick off at 6pm Lesotho time (5pm in Nigeria), and it is exactly one year to the day that the Super Eagles secured a 1-1 draw with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg to grab a ticket to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, where they finished third.
Team doctor Ibrahim Gyaran has confirmed that there are no injuries within the 23 –man playing body meaning there’s a full complement of players for manager Gernot Rohr to pick from.
It is unlikely that many changes will be made to the starting line-up, with Torino defender Ola Aina and Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu both justifying their selections against Benin with impressive performances which means Ahmed Musa may have to settle for a place on the bench again.
Lesotho have been hard to beat in recent games, as was highlighted with the late goal that salvaged a point for them in Sierra Leone, but as plucky as they are, they do not possess the quality of the Super Eagles and it will be a surprise if the away team don’t come out victorious.
The Eagles have won on the two previous occasions that these teams have met.
The Confederation of African Football has named 41 –year old Botswanan official, Joshua Bondo as the referee, with Bondo’s compatriots Meshack Medupi, Mogomotsi Morakile and Tshepo Mokani Gobagoba as assistant referee 1, assistant referee 2 and fourth official respectively.
Johannes Jakob Vries from Namibia will serve as match commissioner while South African Carlos Henriques will be referee assessor.