PREVIEW: Nigeria vs. Cape Verde – Eagles battle Blue Sharks for WCQ playoffs berth
Nigeria’s quest to clinch a qualification ticket to the 2022 FIFA World Cup will continue this Tuesday when the Super Eagles host the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde to the showdown encounter in Group C of the African qualifying series for the Mundial.
Gernot Rohr’s men will be looking to avoid defeat against their Cape Verdean opponents as they need just one point to advance to the playoffs round. The Eagles are leaders of the group with 12 points after five games, with their opposition from far West Africa not quite far behind on the standings as they are in second place with 10 points.
For the Blue Sharks tactician Bubista, he has a duty of leading his boys to an upset win over the Eagles at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos tomorrow. Of course, the Cape Verdeans will try to take a cue from the infamous home defeat suffered by Nigeria in the hands of Central African Republic last month. Karl Namnganda’s stoppage time winner for C.A.R. in that game invalidated
Nigeria’s plans to end the qualifiers with a perfect record (4W, 1L).
In the reverse fixture between the Eagles and the Blue Sharks staged in Mindelo in September, an embarrassing own goal by midfielder Kenny Rocha Santos completed a 2-1 comeback win for Nigeria. But Cape Verde have done incredibly well to overcome their slow start in the group since that defeat, winning their next three games on the bounce. Their impressive form should be a worry for the Eagles ahead Tuesday’s crunch encounter.
Nigeria manager Rohr has confirmed that Odion Ighalo, who was recalled out of retirement, will be in the matchday squad for this Cape Verde encounter. The former Watford and Man United striker was sidelined for the game against Liberia over the weekend to the surprise of many. The coach has now confirmed that his veteran forward will be ready to play some part against the Blue Sharks as his fitness condition has improved lately.
HEAD TO HEAD
Nigeria has played Cape Verde only twice in the past – and they have never lost to them (1W, 1D). Apart from the 2-1 Nigeria win in the reverse two months back, the only other time both sides faced off was in an international friendly in 2013. The game ended in a goalless draw.
Expected Nigeria XI
Rohr is expected to name an unchanged starting line-up from the 2-0 win over Liberia on Saturday.
Okoye – Balogun, Ekong, Awaziem – Collins, Aribo, Ndidi, Iwobi, Simon – Iheanacho, Osimhen.