Aribo doubtful as Eagles take on defensive Squirrels of Benin Republic
Here we go again. Nigeria will begin its quest for yet another go at the African Cup of Nations title when it meets Benin Republic in the first game of the qualifying series in Uyo today.
Nigeria won the bronze medal at the last Nations Cup in Egypt, but the players believe they had the quality to win the title taken by Algeria.
Cameroon hosts the next edition of the competition in 2021 and to get another chance to contest for the crown, the Eagles must beat the Squirrels of Benin and Lesotho’s national team in the elimination series.
Manager, Gernot Rohr, and his men have been in Uyo since Sunday working on ways to ensure a good result against the defensive Beninoise, who have not hidden their intention of getting at least a draw out of Uyo.
One of the players Nigerian football fans want to see against Benin Republic is Glasgow Rangers’ midfielder, Joe Aribo, who has been a big hit in his two games for Nigeria so far.
The goal-scoring midfielder, however, may not play today according to reports from the team’s camp.
According to camp sources, Rohr may not risk the 23-year-old star because he arrived late and had only one training session with the rest of the squad. But some other sources say that may not be a problem because the former Charlton Athletic playmaker has been part of the team for a long time and knows how the Eagles play.
While there are doubts about Aribo’s fitness, Team Captain, Ahmed Musa will play his first game for the country since the last African Nations Cup third-place match in Egypt.
Musa says he is delighted to be back in the team after missing the side’s last two games against Ukraine and Brazil as a result of injury.
“I feel good to be back in the team, starting the game is not my priority. The guys did well against Ukraine and Brazil,” Musa said yesterday.
Meanwhile, Coach Gernot Rohr assured Nigerians the Eagles will not treat the Squirrels with kid gloves.
Speaking in the pre-match conference yesterday, Rohr noted that the Super Eagles did well in their last two internationals against Ukraine and Brazil, adding, however, that the players would not be carried away as Benin will be a different opposition.
“Benin Republic as a team play well defensively, you saw them play in the AFCON competition, they did so well, they eliminated Morocco for example and it will be different.
“Our two games were good games but it is dangerous to believe now we played well in these two games it will be easy against Benin, it will be more difficult because it is a different team, different football and we only have one day but it’s the same for them.”
He assured Nigerians that the team would work well in training to present a compact squad today, “If we play well, with our quality, nice pitch, we will succeed.”
Reacting to questions on his substitutions, especially his ‘late’ reaction in match situations, Rohr said, “I prefer to wait to be sure to make good replacements than to go quickly.
“I give the players the chance to show themselves… I have confidence in the team starting the game and then to bring somebody out if there is no injury.
“I must be sure that we have better possibilities to be stronger without the people starting the game but I think we changed six players in Singapore, it was the maximum.
“In Ukraine also, we saw a lot of people, now we have the chance to have two games which means that we can see a lot of players also.”