Seventy-four days after a heart-breaking defeat against Argentina in St Petersburg, Nigeria Super Eagles will return to the pitch in their first step towards moving on with life when they face a less-fancied Seychelles national team at the Mahe Islands on Saturday.
The size of the opposition is not dissimilar to the size of the country that Nigeria will be facing, neither is the venue of the encounter – the Stade Linité – a boastful centre. The facility barely contains ten thousand spectators at its peak and its decrepit artificial surface summarises the qualities.
We take a sneak preview into the encounter:
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Nigeria, regarded as one of Africa’s football powerhouses have failed to qualify for the last two editions of the continent’s showpiece event; the Africa Cup of Nations, ironically after winning it in 2013. The next edition is less than a year away but the Super Eagles are still languishing in third spot in the group, although with only a game played.
They face the Pirates of Seychelles who are the basement side in Group E. The Seychellois team were hammered 5-1 by Libya over twelve months ago while Nigeria suffered an ignominious home loss to South Africa in Uyo around the same time. Only a victory can bring either side back in contention for one the two slots available for each group.
Kickoff time: 4:30pm local time (1:30pm in Nigeria)
Venue: Stade Linité, Victoria, Mahe Islands.
Referee: Davies Ogenche Omweno (Kenya)
Omweno will be assisted by his compatriot Gilbert Cheruiyot and Mark Ssonko from Uganda.
Seychelles head coach Gavin Jeanne has stuck with the majority of his side that participated in the COSAFA Cup three months ago. Gervey Saminadin and Rashim Padayachy are likely to bear the team’s responsibility in the final third with Jones Joubert leading from the rear. Youngster Alex Horneau is also in the frame.
Nigeria are without their captain John Mikel Obi, Alex Iwobi and William Ekong but they still have a squad brimming with Europe-based talents. Strikers Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa are expected to lead the side’s forward line in Victoria on Saturday.
WHAT THEY SAID:
NIgeria coach Gernot Rohr:
“Everyone realizes the importance of this match. We are currently number three in our group and that position does not befit Super Eagles of Nigeria. It is not good for us because it is outside the qualification range.
“The players know this. They know that on Saturday they have to show character to put our campaign back on track with a good result.”
Seychelles coach, Gavin Jeanne:
“We can always improve in our play and that’s what we try to do as much as possible. Everyone knows the Nigerian team, either from Africa or from the rest of the world. We know them on the TV.
“We are a completely different team from what Nigeria have been facing recently especially at the World Cup so we know it’ll be a completely different game.”
Damien Paul Maria, Jones Joubert, Warren Mellie, Benoit Marie;
Colin Esther, Karl Hall, Rashim Padayachy;
Gervey Saminadin, Leroy Coralie, Gervais Waye-Hive.
Brian Idowu, Leon Balogun, Kenneth Omeruo, Jamilu Collins
Ogenyi Onazi, Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenekaro Etebo;
Samuel Kalu, Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa