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England vs Nigeria: Five players to watch


England’ Harry Kane (C) vies with Malta’s Steve Borg (R) during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifying Group F Match Malta vs England at the National Stadium in Ta’Qali on September 1, 2017. Matthew Mirabelli / AFP

The Super Eagles continue their World Cup preparation with a friendly against England at the iconic Wembley Stadium. Both teams possess a young squad, and a disciplined manager wiling to guide the squad into respectable finishes at the World Cup. With some players still in a fight for squad places for the Nigerian team and first team places for the Three Lions, here are five players to watch in what should be an exciting friendly.

Raheem Sterling

After the entire furore over the assault rifle tattoo on his leg, the Manchester City winger will be hoping to silence his detractors with his showing on field and especially while shooting with his right foot. He goes into the World Cup as a creative and prolific force after showing improvements almost bordering on transformation with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. It will be interesting to see if he can replicate his City form with England starting from the game against Nigeria.


Harry Kane

Gareth Southgate finally handed the captain’s armband to Harry Kane after it did rounds with Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson. The Spurs striker stands out as the most important player in the squad and comes off a 30-goal Premier League campaign hoping to fire England into advanced stages of the World Cup. Kane hopes to lead the Three Lions deep into the World Cup but he’d understand the importance of getting to the tournament high on momentum. A victory against the Super Eagles will be chief on his mind, as well as a perfect performance with the captain’s band around his arm.

Victor Moses

Nigeria’s Victor Moses in the friendly against Poland. AFP

He easily could have been playing for the Three Lions after playing in the youth teams but Victor Moses will be in the colours of Nigeria where he was born. The Wembley crowd will witness a different Moses, not the solid, measured wingback but the flamboyant and talismanic winger. The Chelsea player missed the Super Eagles game against DR Congo where the attack lacked incision but with his return after his wedding anniversary, Nigeria’s attack will be faster and deadlier.

Ola Aina

Another player who could easily be on the other side, Aina played across all youth levels for England but finally chose to play for Nigeria last year. He will be keen to atone for his error that gave DR Congo a controversial penalty in the Super Eagles’ last game. He is in a straight duel with Elderson Echiejile for a place as second choice left back for Nigeria with Brian Idowu already certain as first choice. It would take an impressive performance from Aina to convince Rohr of picking him ahead of the experienced and naturally left-footed Echiejile.

John Mikel Obi

Another platform for the John Mikel Obi to show he was meant to be more than Chelsea’s water carrier; often derided as unimaginative and lacking in attacking intent. Mikel Obi will play in his customary attacking role behind the striker where he is the team’s conductor, dictating the tempo and rhythm of the game. He stands out as the team’s most accomplished passer funneling balls into the attack for the likes of Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo and Victor Moses.  He also is the leader of this callow side, guiding the players with his calm and gentle persona.

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