Captain Ahmed Musa and 20 other invited players were at the Super Eagles’ first training session in the city of Tangier on Tuesday as the countdown began for Saturday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 African qualifying encounter against the Lone Star of Liberia at the city’s main venue.
As at lunchtime on Tuesday, only forwards Victor Osimhen and Odion Jude Ighalo, as well as newly –drafted goalkeeper John Noble, were being expected in the camp, according to a statement by the Nigeria Football Federation.
“The Super Eagles had a gym session at the hotel in the morning and were scheduled to train in the evening at the Grand Stade de Tanger (also known as Stade Ibn Batouta), a 45,000 –capacity facility that was opened in April 2011 but which will, sadly, be empty when Nigeria and Liberia tackle each other for three precious points on Saturday. ‘Hosts’ Liberia have made no move to get the Confederation of African Football to approve crowd attendance at the Day 5 game,” the statement added.
Nine-pointer Nigeria need all three points from the encounter with the Lone Star in order to stay in contention to star in the knockout phase of the World Cup qualifiers, set for March 2022. Only the group winners will proceed to the knockout phase that will be a home-and-away exercise to produce Africa’s five flagbearers in Qatar.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, who host Central African Republic in Mindelo on Saturday, have seven points and will be hoping the Super Eagles stumble in North Africa.
However, the Super Eagles have scaled the hurdle in their last three major qualifying campaigns with matches to spare, and are confident they could reach the knockout round before the final day of the qualifiers by beating Liberia, and hoping Cape Verde are unhinged on home soil by the Beasts.
Nigeria reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals with a match to spare; a feat repeated in the qualifying series for the 2019 AFCON. For the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, the Super Eagles qualified with two matches to spare. (Punch)