The Super Eagles will be taking on the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone in their first competitive match this year. The match scheduled for the newly refurbished Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin is one Nigerians expect the Super Eagles to win without much stress. The qualifying series that started for the Super Eagles on a comfortable note is expected to resume on the same note. Six points out of six already, the ticket could be secured if the Eagles win their double header against Sierra Leone. Since Gernot Rohr took over, the Eagles have made mince meat of qualifying for tournaments.
The mood is so relaxed that Edo deputy governor could find time to run around on the pitch all in the name of training with the team. However, there are some things we will be looking out for in the tie, beyond the results.
Maduka Okoye In Goal
It will be interesting to see who Rohr picks as his first choice goalkeeper. There are four goalies in camp – Maduka Okoye, Daniel Akpeyi, Sebastien Osigwe and Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Akpeyi seemed to have lost his place after last year’s AFCON as he was not even invited for the two friendlies against Ukraine and Brazil last year. Francis Uzoho, who seemed to have won back his place after the AFCON got injured against Brazil and Rohr went back for Akpeyi.
Akpeyi was in goal in the first two qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho but those seems a long time ago now. Okoye was one of the positives of the last two friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia after some impressive and assured displays. Fillers from camp says Rohr is set to stick with Okoye, that might be the road to becoming the first choice goalie of the Super Eagles.
For Osigwe, this might not be a match for experiments and he may have to wait for another window to make his bow. However, it is beginning to look like the Eagles are starting to have options in a once problematic department.
The midfield combination
In the hierarchy of things as it stands right now, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo seems to be battling for two starting places in the team. Strangely, Rohr has never had the trio together in the team at a time and it is not different now.
Non of the trio were available for the last friendlies but Etebo and Aribo returns and are expected to be the double pivot in the middle. It is the first time both will be playing together. Aribo enjoyed his introduction into the Super Eagles with Ndidi by his side, he appeared a better foil for the defensive Ndidi than Etebo. His ability to get into the box looks like a perfect fit for the team. It will be interesting to see how Aribo and Etebo performs in Ndidi’s absence.
A Starting Role For Chidera Ejuke
Rohr’s attacking options picks itself. Victor Osimhen as the center-forward and Samuel Chukwueze on the right. However, the left looks undecided. Samuel Kalu has been Rohr’s first choice there but he is out injured. Another of Rohr’s trusted options there Moses Simon is also out injured. Ahmed Musa has played there before but he is presently without a club and is in the team more on sentiments. There is also Emmanuel Dennis who has barely featured regularly. The other option there is Chidera Ejuke.
Nigerians have longed salivated for the CSKA Moscow winger but were left disappointed when he barely featured in the last friendlies. However, his cameo appearance has left Nigerians clamouring for more. His dribbling skills and trickery was already clear for every Musa, Obi and Ade to see. It will be interesting to see him play more, preferably from the start.
He looks like one that will entertain fans with his skills. Even if the stands will be empty, it will be good to see a player really entertain Nigerians watching from home. Nigerians will do a lot with some entertainment at this time.
After all said, nothing short of three points will be acceptable. The Super Eagles will know better not to add to the frustrations already in the land.