• Leone Stars’ 43-man contingent arrive
All 23 invited Nigeria’s Super Eagles’ players arrived at the team’s Eterno Hotel and Suites camp in south-south Benin City yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier against the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone.
Their opponents also flew in yesterday with a 43-man contingent.
The Leone Stars’ delegation had flown into south-west Lagos aboard an ASKY airline flight from Freetown, before being lifted by a chartered flight to Benin City.
The Nigerian players and officials undertook the mandatory COVID-19 tests yesterday, with the results expected today.
The Eagles have become used to this trend of things under Franco-German trainer, Gernot Rohr, in his four years and four months so far: earning tickets to major tournaments with matches to spare. And that is what the Super Eagles aim to continue in when they confront the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone tomorrow in Benin City and four days later in Freetown.
With all his players on ground for the tie, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr declared yesterday that they have got everything to deal with the situation.
“We do not in any way under-rate the Sierra Leoneans that we play over two legs within these four days, but we have our focus and objective for the matches. We want to win both games so we can have the ticket and be able to be little more relaxed for the final games. You know that next year, we also have the World Cup qualifiers to focus on. It is better to get the AFCON job behind us now.
“I am excited by the spirit of the players and their sense of dedication and commitment. We have not played a competitive match in a year, but they look very ready and good to go. Our mission is the six points in these two matches.”
With the maximum six points from their first two matches of the campaign, three ahead of second-placed Benin Republic who square up to Lesotho, the Eagles will be sure of a spot in the Draw for the finals in Cameroon if they earn all the points at stake against the Leone Stars.
A year ago, at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, the Eagles survived a scare as the Squirrels from Benin Republic scored to take the lead inside five minutes of kick off. Victor Osimhen levelled from the spot just before half time and winger Samuel Kalu slotted in the winner off a solo effort in the second period.
Days later, the Eagles again fell behind against Lesotho’s Crocodiles in Maseru, before goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze, and a brace by Osimhen put daylight between the Eagles and their hosts.
Captain Ahmed Musa and his deputy, William Ekong, sang similar tunes as Coach Rohr in previewing the two encounters with the Leone Stars, saying the players are hungry for victory in both games as they want to assure an early spot in Cameroon.
The Leone Stars are staying at the Lushville Hotel. After losing one and drawing the other in their first two matches of the qualification series, Coach John Keister and wards will look to make life difficult for the Super Eagles at the upgraded Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium tomorrow.
But the Leone Stars have not had the upper hand against Nigeria since beating the Eagles in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Freetown 19 years ago.