The Super Eagles’ contingent for Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying tango with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde landed on the island of Mindelo on Monday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special jet of Air Peace airline.
There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players who returned to base following the unchanged stance of UK authorities concerning protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to the country after visiting a country on their COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one. Defence bulwark Olaoluwa Aina also left.
Tuesday’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capactiy Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigeria squad.
The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal and Spain –based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks on Tuesday evening.
The departures of two –goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to empanel entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.
Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK. Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia –based Chidera Ejuke, Italy –based former junior international Kingsley Michael and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are all available.
Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, two days on 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar, if he takes any part in Tuesday’s encounter.
Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star are victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.
A win will also brighten the path of the three –time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.