By Albert Akota
Nigeria’s Super Eagles are fully concentrated on Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 playoff duel with Ghana’s Black Stars, with the players determined to put up a performance that will earn Nigeria a seventh appearance at football’s biggest houseparty since her 1994 debut.
Captain Ahmed Musa told thenff.com on Sunday: “All the players, including myself, want to go to the World Cup. For me, it is very important because it could be my last World Cup. I enjoyed the last two finals that I participated in, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. I want to experience it again. Most of the players in the present squad have not been to the World Cup and they desire to be there.
“We all know it won’t be easy. Ghana will come here to do battle but we are ready for whatever they turn up with. I will not say more than that.”
Ghana paced the pitch but Nigeria created more chances in a high-octane first leg at a paroxysmic Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on Friday. Both teams failed to score in a 0-0 scoreline.
Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, Emmanuel Dennis and Moses Simon came close and Moroccan referee Rédouane Jiyed only annulled his own decision for a penalty kick in favour of Nigeria after a VAR review indicated an earlier infringement.
Nigeria has the distinct advantage to pull through to Qatar at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, with the Eagles to play in front of a capacity 60,000 fans after the Nigeria Football Federation secured a go-ahead from the Confederation of African Football for maximum capacity.
There is strength in depth for Coach Augustine Eguavoen’s team, as the squad is able to pick a capable second 11 if the need arises. Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, defenders Abdullahi Shehu, Kenneth Omeruo, Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey, midfielders Frank Onyeka and Akinkunmi Amoo and forwards Emmanuel Dennis, Sadiq Umar, Odion Ighalo and Ademola Lookman are capable of starting in place of the usual suspects.
Onyeka came into the second half in Kumasi but could start alongside Oghenekaro Etebo and Innocent Bonke on Tuesday as the Eagles look to tackle the menace of Ghana’s pace in the middle.
Nigeria has been at every FIFA World Cup finals since 1994, bar the 2006 edition in Germany, and reached the Round of 16 in USA 1994, France 1998 and Brazil 2014.
The last time both countries were involved in a FIFA World Cup qualifying was in 2001, when they finished 0-0 in Accra and Nigeria swept aside their visitors 3-0 in Port Harcourt in July 2001 to qualify for Korea/Japan.