Bunmi Ogunyale, Port-Harcourt
In what represents the last opportunity for Nigeria’s 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 DR of Congo at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium today.
Simba’s delegation of 28 players landed in Port Harcourt on Thursday, 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.
DR of Congo is loaded with her 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 in Port Harcourt.
However, the Eagles were in great form and were in no mood to allow anyone desecrate their parade, with Captain Mikel John Obi saying yesterday that himself and teammates were 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 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 had 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 will propel the Eagles to give their all today, 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 cut their chances and killed their dream of a trip to Russia.