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AFCON 2021 qualifier: 23 players hit Eagles’ camp, Iheanacho expected

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Super Eagles players and officials. PHOTO: NAN

No fewer than 23 players have arrived at the Super Eagles’ camp ahead of the final round of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification matches against Benin Republic and Lesotho respectively.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that only Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, who hit a brace as City flung Manchester United out of the FA Cup at the weekend, is being expected at the Eko Hotels.

A tweet on the team’s official handle on Tuesday said as at lunchtime, 23 players had arrived at the Eko Hotel & Towers, Victoria Island, Lagos where the three-time African champions are lodged ahead of the big duels.

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Nigeria tops its group with eight points, one better than the Squirrels of Benin Republic, against whom they trade tackles at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on Saturday in the penultimate round of the qualifying campaign.

Three days later, the Eagles confront the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, in what will be their first encounter in Nigeria’s commercial and economic capital in 10 years.

Sierra Leone, with three points and third in the pool, concluding their game away to bottom-placed Lesotho in Maseru earlier, the Eagles could be guaranteed qualification for the final in Cameroon before kick-off in Porto Novo.

Failure by the Leone Stars to pick all three points will mean Nigeria and Benin are through to Cameroon.

Coach Gernot Rohr was also quoted as saying that his wards would approach Saturday’s match with the intention of picking all three poits, no matter the result of the group’s other tie in southern Africa.

“We are keen to restore a winning mentality to the group ahead of very crucial matches that we have ahead.

“It is important that we earn victories in the upcoming matches so that we get into our paces for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. There will be tough games to come and we need to be rearing to go,” Rohr said.

The Eagles have Cape Verde, Liberia and Central Africa Republic to contend with in the 2022 FIFA World Cup race, with only the winner heading to the final knockout series in November.

Liberia’s Lone Star will be the Eagles’ first opponents in that race, at home, before a trip to Bangui.

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The Super Eagles are expected to travel by waterways to Porto Novo on Friday morning, and will stay the night in the Beninoise capital, Cotonou before moving to Porto Novo on Saturday for the game.

The contingent will return to Cotonou after the game and travel back to Lagos on Sunday morning.

Players in camp:

Goalkeepers: Maduka Okoye, Francis Uzoho, John Noble;

Defenders: William Ekong, Olaoluwa Aina, Adekunle Adeleke, Chidozie Awaziem, Leon Balogun, Tyronne Ebuehi, Jamilu Collins, Zaidu Sanusi;

Midfielders: Semi Ajayi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Abdullahi Shehu, Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, Wilfred Ndidi;

Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Henry Onyekuru, Anayo Iwuala, Alex Iwobi, Paul Onuachu, Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen.


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