By Jawolusi ‘Segun
Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa
Swaziland vs Nigeria
Venue: Somhlolo National Stadium
Date: Friday, 13th November
Time: 7:00 pm
Referee Germain Koole (Benin Republic)
Asst Referee 1 Bienvenu Dina
Asst Referee 2 Sena Ulrich Houedin
Fourth Official Gustave Eugene Tohouegnon
Super Eagles of Nigeria will start their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign today as they take on Swaziland in Lobamba.
The Nigerian side will once be taking their eyes off the brouhaha surrounding the resignation of de facto captain Vincent Enyeama and top striker, Emuneke Amuneke to focus on the qualification for the next FIFA World Cup.
The team is a mixture of youth and experience which points to the rebuilding process going on under the new manager of the team, Sunday Oliseh.
New captain Ahmed Musa, with in form goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi are parts of the new generation of Super Eagles to be backed up by veterans like John Mikel Obi and Obafemi Martins.
Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Elderson Echiejile, Rabiu Ibrahim, Ogenyi Onazi are all set for the encounter with Watford striker Odion Ighalo set to lead the line along with Martins.
Super Eagles returneee striker Obafemi Martins
Returning striker Martins has issued a rallying call to the squad to prove their quality against Swaziland who whalloped Djibouti 8-1 on aggregate to reach this stage of the competition.
Martins is making a return to the team after two years of absence, his recall to the team is due to an impressive run with his MLS side Seattle Sounders with whom he has a season with 15 goal return.
Also, Manchester City’s 19-year-old forward Kelechi Iheanacho could debut for Oliseh’s men as they look forward to reach a third World Cup final in succession.
Despite the impressive show put up by Swaziland against Djibouti, Martins remain upbeat about the encounter which is slated for Somhlolo National Stadium, an artificial turf pitch.
“I have always stayed true to my country and happiness is an understatement of my feelings right now, the national team means a lot to me,” he told News24.
“With all due respect, I don’t expect them to pose so much of a threat but we still have to approach the game with all the seriousness it deserves, as underdogs they have nothing to lose hence they will play with freedom.
“We are an experienced side and that gives us an edge but we have to be ready to fight till the end, we can’t afford to start badly.”
Ranked 130th, Swaziland have shown their capability as a giant killer with the 2-1 win over Guinea in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
As Swaziland prepare to take on Nigeria for the first time, Super Eagles boss Oliseh has shaken off a recent bout of illness to be in the dugout.
Opposite number Harris Bulunga meanwhile has warned his side to be wary of the threat Nigeria will pose, while remaining hopeful the hosts can cause another upset.
“We are facing one of the superpowers of African football so we cannot get carried away and go out and attack even though we are playing at home,” he told Brila FM.
“We need to respect the Nigerian team because they are made up of mostly professional players who we watch on television, we know what they are all about and how dangerous they can be, so we need to be careful.
“This is the first time Nigeria will be in our country and everyone is excited about the match. The general public, the government politicians even the players themselves, they are motivated and looking forward to testing themselves against these well-known players they watch on television.
“So the naton is in prayer, of course that at least in the two legs we will manage to win one of the matches. It’s going to be a tough match but we believe that we can give a good showing.”
Last Five Matches
Sat 20/06/15 ANC Swaziland 2 – 2 Angola
Fri 03/07/15 ANC Angola 2 – 0 Swaziland
Sun 06/09/15 ACO Swaziland 2 – 2 Malawi
Fri 09/10/15 WQA Djibouti 0 – 6 Swaziland
Sat 17/10/15 WQA Swaziland 2 – 1 Djibouti
Tue 08/09/15 FRI Nigeria 2 – 0 Niger
Thu 08/10/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 2 Congo DR
Sun 11/10/15 FRI Nigeria 3 – 0 Cameroon
Sat 17/10/15 ANC Nigeria 2 – 0 Burkina Faso
Sun 25/10/15 ANC Burkina Faso 0 – 0 Nigeria