With Adebayo Olodan
Just as Muslims all over the world will be celebrating Eid-el Kabir tomorrow (Friday), the Super Eagles will be sweating it out 6pm, same day with their eternal rivals, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
A win for the Eagles will not only serve as Sallah gift for all Nigerian Muslims but also a redemption for the team after their surprise loss the last time at home to South Africa.
Not many Nigerians are pleased with the team at the moment and anything short of victory will further deplete the rating of the Eagles.
Leading to this match, I am particularly worried about the lack of game time of some of our players scattered all over Europe. Surprisingly, Coach Gernot Rohr has decided to keep his trust in some inactive players at the expense of those who turn out for their clubs every weekend. The implication of the decision is that the team’s physiotherapists and coaches have a more herculean task at hand in getting the match-rusty players fit.
I was particularly disappointed not to see a player like Joel Obi in the squad as he seemed to have hit a good patch of form this season with Torino. The former Inter Milan midfielder even scored a goal at the weekend. Other players that could have been named are Anderson Esiti of Gent and Peter Olayinka of Zulte-Waregem.
The Cameroonians in their tradition will look to boss the Eagles with their physical appearance and a player like Esiti in the midfield would have been able to match them for strength.
Also, the decision to retain the fumbling Daniel Akpeyi may backfire, especially if he is trusted with the gloves. I had expected the coach to extend his call-up to more experienced and better goalkeepers as the Eagles cannot afford to miss out of the trip to Russia having come this far.
Another problem that has reared its ugly head again is the indiscipline and lateness to camp by our players. At a time players from South America, Asia and even Australia had arrived their countries in preparation for their World Cup qualifiers, some of the invited Eagles players have decided to stay away from camp.
As at Tuesday morning, no fewer than five members of the squad were yet to arrive the Uyo base of the team, a development that may affect team selection and result on the pitch. It is more worrisome when you consider the fact that some of the players that were yet to arrive did not play for their clubs at the weekend or turned out for their teams on Saturday. Rather than heading straight to come after their arrival in the country, some of those players were said to have stopped over in Lagos and other places to attend to family/domestic issues.
Victory for the Eagles is non-negotiable at this stage and another result three days later in Yaounde may see the team book its ticket to Russia, especially as other matches in the group go according to plan.