Super Eagles battle Lone Stars under pressure from Cape Verde | Dailytrust

Super Eagles battle Lone Stars under pressure from Cape Verde

Super Eagles returnee, Odion Ighalo is highly favoured to lead the team’s attack against the Lone Stars of Liberia
Super Eagles returnee, Odion Ighalo is highly favoured to lead the team’s attack against the Lone Stars of Liberia

Three-time African champions, the Super Eagles will battle the national team of Liberia in one of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers this evening in Tangier, Morocco, as they prepare for the final showdown with the ambitious Blue Sharks of Cape Verde on November 16 in Lagos.

At the start of the qualifying series, 40 teams were drawn in 10 different groups and only the winners of each group would progress to the March 2022 playoffs to determine the teams that will represent the continent at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Super Eagles who have made six World Cup appearances beginning from USA 1994 are drawn in Group C with Cape Verde, Liberia and little known Central African Republic.

The Gernot Rohr tutored Super Eagles are currently on top of Group C with nine points garnered from 4 games. They are followed by Cape Verde on seven points, Central Africa Republic four points and Liberia three points.

The Super Eagles had won two matches against Cape Verde, Liberia before the shocking 0-1 loss at home to less endowed Central Africa Republic on October 7.

The shocking World Cup qualifiers home loss to CAR was the first suffered by the Super Eagles in 40 years. It indeed sent shock waves across the country with many football fans calling for the sack of Coach Rohr.

However, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick immediately accepted responsibility for the painful defeat as he urged Nigerians to get behind the Super Eagles in their remaining matches.

“Everyone is stunned, but we do not have to be emotional or negative about things. The same team defeated Liberia here in Lagos and Cape Verde away. They still have that ability to deliver. As a Football Federation, we take responsibility for this defeat. We believe things will change positively in three days.

“We also believe that this loss is a massive wake-up call and could be the springboard to reset and motivate the team to keep giving their all to not only qualify for the World Cup but to perform well in Qatar,” Pinnick said.

True to his words, the thoroughly embarrassed Super Eagles travelled to Yaounde in Cameroon and ensured they took back their pound of flesh with an emphatic 2-0 victory on October 10 to stay on top of the group.

As the star-studded Super Eagles face the Lone Stars of Liberia today at the lush green Grande de Tanger in Morocco, they must avoid another defeat, if they are to go into the final group match on Tuesday without pressure. Their job will be made less tedious, if Cape Verde drop points in their match with the resilient Central African Republic.

The Super Eagles are well aware of the task before them. They can’t afford further slip-ups in their quest and this position was reiterated by team captain, Ahmed Musa.

“As you can see everyone is happy and we are ready for the game. We have 22 players here. Tomorrow, we are expecting the goalkeeper (John Noble) and Odion Ighalo.

“We know the importance of the game, we can’t afford to lose. We have to go for the three points. At the end of the game on Saturday, we hope to celebrate another important win,” Musa told the Super Eagles media.

Although the Liberians on a paltry three points are effectively out of the race to Qatar 2022, the Lone Stars are not taking anything for granted. They are upbeat and rearing to go against the Super Eagles.

The Liberia Football Association Deputy Communication Manager, Gologo Ben Garkpah has said the Lone Stars want to silence Nigeria to make things edgy in Group C.

“When the Lone Stars reflect on the defeat in Nigeria in which I don’t think we were particularly bad, we want to win,” Garkpah told Goal.

“We have not lost a competitive home game against Nigeria over a long period. We are motivated to win and make things nervous for any of the two contenders on the last day.

“I think we can upset the three-time African champions. With all respect to them, the Super Eagles are not infallible. They can be beaten.

“They’ve lost a World Cup qualifier to us before, and we can replicate that.”

Since there are no more minnows in world football, the Super Eagles must play with determination and commitment to avoid another mishap today. If by the stroke of ill-luck, they lose to Liberia and Cape Verde wins, Nigeria will instantly drop to second place with nine points while Cape Verde would assume leadership of the group with 10 points.

If this scenario plays out, then the final game between the duo will determine who wins the sole group ticket and that would make the Tuesday, November 16 clash in Lagos a do-or-die affair for the Super Eagles.

Also speaking on today’s match, a former captain of the Super Eagles and Presidential Aide, Daniel Amokachi said despite their impressive credentials, the players shouldn’t underrate their opponents.

“They shouldn’t go in there underrating them. I’m sure with what we have seen on social media in the last few days, they have been active and have come to camp with good confidence,” he said.

The ‘Bull’ as the former Ranchers Bees, Club Brugge and Everton of England star is fondly called by admirers also supported the return of Odion Ighalo to the Super Eagles.

“Ighalo who has joined the team as he has been away for a while is coming with experience. He is a player that scores goals for fun. As a player who was recently voted Asian player of the month, it means he is scoring the goals and we should embrace him.

“We know we have young talented players doing well but in front of goals, we have been struggling lately. If the coach says he wants this player, then we should respect his decision,” he said.

In the same vein, another former Super Eagles captain and coach, Sunday Oliseh, said he is in support of Ighalo’s return to the fold after over two years in retirement but would have preferred the younger players flourishing.

“Ighalo is a good addition to the team and he will do well for the Super Eagles. Though I would have preferred to have the younger strikers around, it is still a good move from the coach,” he said.

All things being equal, the Super Eagles who need four more points to reach the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers have no choice but to get the victory against Liberia and Cape Verde in their remaining two matches.

A lot is expected from the Highest Goalscorer at the 2019 AFCON, Ighalo who ‘strolled’ into the camp of the Super Eagles on Thursday, four days after the camp of the team was opened in Tangier. The Al Shabab FC of Saudi Arabia hit-man is highly favoured to lead the attack of the Super Eagles.

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