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Eagles tackle Blue Sharks without UK-based stars

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Musa may make 100th cap today

The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.

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The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.

There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.

Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.

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The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.

The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.

Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.

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Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.

Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.

Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.

A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.

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