A few days ago, 22 players of the Super Eagles of Nigeria landed in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State with promise. At the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Thursday, the star-studded team will begin their journey of banishing the ghosts of missing out of qualifications for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Nigeria was a notable absentee in Qatar 2022 where a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina team lifted that coveted trophy, beating France in a sensational final at the Lusail Stadium in Doha.
Tomorrow, the Super Eagles team will aim to cut the teeth of Lesotho’s Crocodiles in their first match of the FIFA 2026 World Cup 10-match series that will stretch over the next 47 months.
Although the Eagles team will be missing injured striker Victor Osimhen, they have promised Nigeria and their fans that they will be putting their best foot forward and ensuring a solid start to qualifications for the 2026 finals that will be hosted by USA, Mexico and Canada.
Eagles team leader, Kenneth Omeruo, said on Tuesday that the three-time African champions have held a meeting where it was decided to take the long campaign one-match-at-a-time.
He emphasised that they will not under-rate any of the opponents on their route.
“Most of us in the team still remember how painful it was not to be part of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The memory lingers but then, that is gone. This is a fresh opportunity, and we all want to be at the next one.
“There is always the temptation to over-think how to process the campaign, but it is a long one and we have opted to think and plan for only the match ahead of us. On Thursday, we will play Lesotho. We remember them from our 2021 AFCON qualifiers. After the final whistle on Thursday, we can then start thinking about the next opponents.”
The Super Eagles will play the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Thursday from 5pm, and then fly to Butare in Rwanda to take on Zimbabwe’s Warriors in a Day 2 encounter on Sunday.
Super Eagles players in Uyo:
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho, Olorunleke Ojo
Defenders: Kenneth Omeruo, Jamilu Collins, Ola Aina, Chidozie Awaziem, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Onyeamachi Bruno, Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey
Midfielders: Raphael Onyedika, Joe Aribo, Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi
Forwards: Kelechi Iheanacho, Sadiq Umar, Nathan Tella, Moses Simon, Taiwo Awoniyi, Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface, Terem Moffi.