By EPHRAIM NWOSU
Everton midfielder Alex Iwobi has stated that he and his Super Eagles teammates are eager to redeem their image after suffering a shock 1-0 home loss to Guinea-Bissau on Friday in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition as Mama Balde scored for the Wild Dogs, who are 81 places below the Super Eagles in the FIFA world rankings.
“As players and staff, we know we have to react to this result,” said Iwobi, one of three Premier League stars in the starting line-up.
“All we can do is improve and, to the fans, all I can say is that they should stick by us and support us because we give 100 percent not just for ourselves, but also for our nation.
“Next time we are going to do our best and make the country proud,” he added, referring to a Group A rematch in Guinea-Bissau on Monday.
Balde, who plays for French top-tier club Troyes, scored on 30 minutes in Abuja to take the Portuguese-speaking nation to the top of the table.
Guinea-Bissau has seven points, Nigeria six, Sierra Leone two and Sao Tome e Principe one, halfway through the six-round mini-league. The top two finishers progress to the finals.
Nigeria, whose line-up included prolific Napoli scorer Victor Osimhen, was firm favourites to win at home.
But after a bright start, with Osimhen coming close to scoring on 16 minutes, the home side battled to create clear-cut scoring opportunities in the capital city.
As the match reached the half-hour mark, Balde raced on to a lofted pass and fired a low shot past goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.
Osimhen, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United or Arsenal, became increasingly frustrated as poor service and close marking restricted his threat.
The defeat meant the Eagles slipped to second place while the Djurtus climbed to the top, with seven points to the Eagles’ six, ahead of the two teams’ confrontation in Bissau on Monday evening.