In what represents the last opportunity for Nigerian Football fans to cheer the Super Eagles at home before this summer’s FIFA World Cup finals, the three –time African champions clash with the Simba of Democratic Republic of Congo at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on Monday evening.
Simba’s delegation of 28 players landed in Port Harcourt on Thursday night, boasting they were in Nigeria to give the Super Eagles a good match before the Eagles fly out to London for another friendly this week, and onwards to the World Cup.
Two –time African champions Democratic Republic of Congo are loaded to the hilt with their big –name performers, with only Yannick Bolasie missing. Yannick Bangala, Chancel Mbemba, Aaron Tshibola, Paul-Jose Mpoku and Gael Kakuta, as well as Cedric Bakambu, Britt Assombalonga, Benik Afobe, Kabongo Kasongo and Ben Malango are all in Port Harcourt.
However, the Eagles are in great form and are in no mood to allow anyone desecrate their parade, with Captain Mikel John Obi saying on Sunday that himself and team-mates are supremely motivated to battle any opposition hands down.
“We do not expect the Congolese to be easy opposition. They have a strong team made up of very talented players and we know this is one good opposition for us to confront before going to the World Cup.
“The FIFA World Cup is no picnic. We have to arrive in Russia with a winning mentality and you get that feeling of being ready only after beating strong teams.”
Nigeria’s Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr has thrown in his own motivational factor by telling his ‘soldiers’ that five players would be cut from the provisional list of 30 after Monday’s encounter, leaving him with only two more to dispense with when announcing the final squad in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria on Monday next week.
This declaration, plus Obi’s assertion of the need for winning mentality, will propel the Eagles to give their all on Monday, against a squad that nearly grabbed a World Cup ticket for itself.
Overhauling Tunisia was always going to be a mountain to climb in their group, but they were almost there when leading the Carthage Eagles 2-0 in Kinshasa, only to concede two second half goals that abbreviated their chances and eventually killed their dream of a trip to Russia.
After training for five days at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Rohr and wards arrived Port Harcourt on Saturday night, and were scheduled to train at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on Sunday evening.
Certainly, the most famous encounter between both countries remains their clash in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia in March 1976, when a young Eagles’ squad thrashed the Cup holders 4-2 to the shock of African football enthusiasts.
Baba Otu Mohammed scored two of those goals, with Sam Ojebode making good from the penalty spot and Thompson Usiyen getting Nigeria’s other goal. In that squad were the likes of Joe Erico, Sani Mohammed, Godwin Odiye, Idowu Otubusin, Kelechi Emeteole, Ojebode, Muda Lawal, Aloysius Atuegbu, Haruna Ilerika, Baba Otu, Usiyen and Kunle Awesu.