We won’t disappoint, Eguavoen assures
For the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemics in 2020, the Super Eagles will be playing in front of a 60,000 capacity crowd. It is the second leg of the qualifiers for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the Eagles are on the threshold of history as they face the Black Stars of Ghana in Abuja today.
Nigerians, both home and abroad, are highly expectant.
For Coach Augustine Eguavoen, the day represents a turning point in his romance with the round leather game. In 1994, he was part of the Super Eagles team that participated at the World Cup hosted by the United States of America. It was the first ever World Cup appearance for Nigeria. If he leads the Super Eagles to pick the World Cup ticket today, he then becomes only the third indigenous man, after the late Coach Shuaibu Amodu and Stephen Keshi (also late) to have qualified the team for the global showpiece
The stage for this epochal occasion is the magnificent MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja, famed for staging the COJA 2003 All African Games. The high and mighty, including President Muhammadu Buhari, and millions television viewers around the globe are waiting to cheer the Super Eagles to victory.
Whatever happens today inside the MKO Abiola Stadium, a winner must emerge.
The first leg of the tie ended goalless in Kumasi four days ago and so, one of the teams is expected to emerge triumphant after another 90 minutes (120) of football.
Today’s match will add a new chapter to 70-year-old West African football rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana, with 57 games between the two countries – the Black Stars (25 wins) and the Super Eagles (12 wins).
The last time both countries were involved in a FIFA World Cup qualifying game was in 2001 when they finished 0-0 in Accra and Nigeria swept aside their visitors 3-0 in Port Harcourt in July 2001 to qualify for Korea/Japan.
Nigeria have been at every FIFA World Cup final since 1994, except the 2006 edition in Germany, and reached the Round of 16 in USA 1994, France 1998, and Brazil 2014.
Home advantage may be to Nigeria’s favour in Abuja, with the Eagles to play in front of a capacity crowd after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) secured a go-ahead from the Confederation of African Football for maximum capacity.
The newly refurbished MKO Abiola Stadium pitch is resplendent in its beauty and to every lover of the beautiful game, it presents a fantastic environment for a match of such importance.
And that environment is what Coach Eguavoen has promised to take advantage of in dealing with the Black Stars.
Eguavoen has been trying different formations since the Super Eagles returned to Nigeria after the Kumasi leg of the tie.
Speaking on the game yesterday, Eguavoen said his boys are primed for victory today, adding that everybody involved with his team know the importance of winning that game and qualifying for the World Cup.
Eguavoen said he has been training his boys to score goals, utilize every chance that comes their way.
“I am not under any pressure. Yes, I am representing all Nigerian coaches and we want to be in Qatar. When we cross the line, everybody will jubilation.”
He revealed that two players, Innocent Bonnke and Samuel Chukwueze have not trained with the team, adding, “we expect the doctors to give us the results of their test by 9.00 pm and to will help us to decide whether they will play or not. But we have enough materials to take their places if they are not fit for the game.”
Also speaking on the game, midfielder, Moses Simon, said he would do his best to ensure Nigeria wins, adding that the coaches have been working on him to put him at his best.
He said: “It is wrong to say that at the Nations Cup I was caged. Against Tunisia I was not caged, things just didn’t work for us.
“Of course, we knew how Ghana plays and decided to hold back and ensure we did not lose. Tomorrow (today), we are coming out in full force to win. We ask all our supporters to come out to cheer us to victory.”
While Nigeria is already dreaming of victory, the Ghanaians say they are in Abuja to pull a big surprise.
After the first leg in Ghana, the Black Stars vowed to seal victory in Abuja, saying the ‘inadequate’ time they had to train before the game in Kumasi was responsible for their failure to beat the Super Eagles. They repeated the same threat yesterday, saying that the Abuja weather actually suits their game plan.
The Black Stars said they went back to work immediately after the game in Kumasi preparing for this game. The Ghanaians relocated to the Ohene Djan Stadium, Accra, for a three-day intensive preparation before hitting Abuja yesterday.
They had a feel of the Abuja pitch last night.
Speaking on the Black Stars game plan, keeper, Richard Ofori, said his team is condemned to beat Nigeria, adding that it is a mission possible.
The Orlando Pirates goal tender said despite the fact that the team appears new with the introduction of a few new faces, they deserves applauds from Ghanaians for the performance on Friday in the first leg.
“But with the verdict as it looks now, we have to find the back of the net at all cost tomorrow. We have to sharpen our attack and concert the chances we’ll create. There is very little margin of error at this stage.”
The match will be broadcast live by StarTimes in its football channels and NTA.
Kickoff time is 6.00 pm.