PREVIEW: Can Eagles now beat Cameroon when it matters most?

PREVIEW: Can Eagles now beat Cameroon when it matters most?

It will not only be the quality, but also the character of the Super Eagles that will be put to stern test when they aim to beat Cameroon at home in Uyo and “take a big step towards Russia” (coach Gernot Rohr’s own words).

Nigeria have won their first two qualifiers – 2-1 in Zambia in October and 3-1 at home against Algeria in November.

They thus top their qualifying section with six points from two matches, while African champions Cameroon are on two points from as many matches – a gutsy 1-1 draw in Algeria and a laboured 1-1 at home with Zambia.

The Eagles boast a superior head-to-head record against the Indomitable Lions – 10 wins, 4 losses and 6 draws.

However, a deeper look at these impressive stats show that Cameroon have risen to the occasion when they have come up against Nigeria and as a result their four wins against the Eagles have been when it has mattered most – an all-important 1990 World Cup eliminator as well as three AFCON finals.

The question therefore is – Can Nigeria avoid choking in front of their fans tomorrow to win their biggest match in at least three years?

Rohr is bullish about his team’s chances after a younger team, shorn of several top stars, were bombed 2-0 at home by South Africa in an AFCON 2019 qualifier in June.

He said “German machine” Leon Balogun has returned to add aggression to the heart of the back four after injury kept him out in June, while “natural leader” skipper Mikel Obi and “our best striker” Victor Moses are also back in the fold.

“Since last November we know we were going to play Cameroon. We are ready now. We have injured players coming back. We have experience in the team now,” he said.

“Cameroon have a good team but we also have a good team. They want to come and win, we also want to win. It’s going to be a great game and we are ready.”

Mikel made his World Cup debut three years ago in Brazil and he said he hopes to be back for the Mundial in Russia next year.

“We want to go the world Cup. There is no easy way of doing that, we have to win games and we can’t play well every game.

“A win is a win, we want to win (against Cameroon), and that will give us an added advantage in the qualifiers,” stated the former Chelsea star, who now plies his trade in China.

Israel-based striker Anthony Nwakaeme could make his debut against the Indomitable Lions and he is also clear on what the target is.

“We have to be in the World Cup and it will start on the 1st of September when we beat Cameroun by the grace of God and we’ll have a seven-point advantage over the, that will be a good advantage for us,” he said.

Arsenal young forward Alex Iwobi will miss this encounter following a thigh strain he suffered in training with his London club.

FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa will start in the absence of Daniel Akpeyi, who suffered a relapse of a thigh injury in training.

Nigeria will also be hoping they get a last-minute approval from FIFA for Ola Aina to make his debut at problematic right fullback position, otherwise Rohr will stick with the core of the players he has worked with since he took charge in July 2016.

Cameroon will be hard pressed to get a result in Uyo with Belgian coach Hugo Broos revealing they target at least four points in the two games against Nigeria so as to get their qualifying campaign back on a sound footing.

“We are targeting four points in the double-header,” said the Belgian coach, who led the Indomitable Lions to win the AFCON in February in Gabon.

“It is an important game for as a team, we know it’s going to be difficult, but we are prepared to beat Nigeria.

“We are under pressure to beat Nigeria as we are four points behind the leaders, so losing tomorrow will dent our aspiration of going to the World Cup.”

They will be rugged as usual, tight and well organised at the back with AFCON 2017 MVP Christian Bassogog, Vincent Aboubakar and Fabrice Olinga their major threats in attack.

It will be a Titanic showdown with a World Cup ticket riding on it.

By Score Nigeria

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