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2023 AFCON qualifier: Eagles land in Monrovia ahead crucial clash

Nigeria’s delegation to Sunday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying duel with Sierra Leone arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia on Monday morning aboard…

Nigeria’s delegation to Sunday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying duel with Sierra Leone arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia on Monday morning aboard a chartered Air Peace airline Embraer 195.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)’s Director of Communication, Ademola Olajire, disclosed in a statement that the aircraft conveying the contingent of 23 players, technical and administrative staff and a few other officials led by President of NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau, landed at the Roberts International Airport at 11.08am local time (12.08pm in Nigeria), and was received by the Ambassador of Nigeria to Liberia, His Excellency Godfrey A. E. Odudigbo, the Head of Chancery, Ms Stella Ahumibe and a few other mission staff.

He said the president of NFF assured the embassy chieftains that the Super Eagles were in town for business.

“The team is here to work hard and take the three points. It will not be an easy game, but we have the players to do Nigeria proud by winning and qualifying for the next Africa Cup of Nations finals,” he was quoted as saying.

Head Coach José Santos Peseiro reiterated that neither himself nor the players were looking forward to a picnic at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium starting from 4pm Liberia time on Sunday.

“We know the Sierra Leoneans are also ambitious, that they want to win the three points and enhance their chances. It is our business to show that we want the three points better to qualify for the Africa Cup, and we are prepared to do that.

“We have to be at our very best,” he said.

At present, Nigeria is second in the pool with nine points from four matches, a point behind Guinea Bissau, who have played five matches and reached the top following their defeat of Sao Tome on Wednesday.

Victory for the Eagles on Sunday will lift them back to the top of the pile and guarantee a presence at the 34th Africa Cup of Nations to be staged in Cote d’Ivoire next year.

Nigeria defeated Sierra Leone home and away (1-0 and 4-0) in the qualifying series for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa and then defeated the Leone Stars 2-1 in a friendly match in Lagos in February 2011. In a WAFU Cup encounter in September 2017, the Eagles were 2-0 winners.

Both teams clashed twice in the qualifying series for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, with the Leone Stars coming from 1-4 down to draw 4-4 in Benin City, and then forcing a 0-0 draw in Freetown.

In this campaign, the Eagles came from behind to defeat the Leone Stars 2-1 at the MKO Abiola Stadium in June 2022, on the opening day of the series.

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