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Super Eagles target victory in Porto Novo, Squirrels plan upset

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Super Eagles kicked off their preparation for the Cameroun 2021 AFCON in Lagos… yesterday

Nigerians to travel by boat on Friday
Players and officials of the Super Eagles believe they can get outright victory against the Squirrels of Benin Republic from Saturday’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier in Porto Novo. The match will take place at the Stade Charles de Gaulle.

The Super Eagles currently lead the group on eight points, one more than second-placed Squirrels of Benin Republic. A win for the Eagles will see Nigeria through to Cameroun 2021 AFCON even with a match in hand against the Crocodiles of Lesotho in Lagos next week.

On their part, a victory for the Squirrels will secure their AFCON qualification for only the fifth time, and a consecutive one after 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2019 editions.

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At lunchtime yesterday, 23 players had arrived at Eko Hotel & Towers, Victoria Island, Lagos where the three-time African champions are ensconced ahead of the big duels.

Three days after the battle of Porto Novo, the Eagles will 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.

With three–pointer Sierra Leone, third in the pool, concluding their game away to bottom–placed Lesotho in Maseru earlier, the Eagles could be guaranteed qualification for the final tournament in Cameroun before kick-off in Porto Novo. Failure by the Leone Stars to pick all three points will mean Nigeria and Benin are through to Cameroun.

Coach Gernot Rohr said yesterday that his wards would approach Saturday’s match with the intention of picking all three points, 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 raring to go.”

The Eagles have Cape Verde, Liberia and Central Africa Republic to face 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 opponent in that race, at home, before a trip to Bangui.

Players in Eagles camp yesterday were goalkeepers: Maduka Okoye, Francis Uzoho, John Noble; Defenders: William Troost-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.

Only Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, who hit a brace as City flung Manchester United out of the FA Cup at the weekend, was being expected at the Eko Hotels.

The Super Eagles will travel by waterways to Benin 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.

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Meanwhile, Squirrels’ French coach, Michel Dussuyer, sounded confident yesterday that his wards could upstage the star-studded Super Eagles in Saturday’s Group L match in Porto Novo.

The Frenchman is hopeful of avenging their 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture.

After naming his 23-man squad yesterday, Dussuyer, who had previously managed Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea, said, “On Saturday, our ambition is to win. It will not be an easy task, but we have hopes.”

He added: “Stéphane Sessegnon is selected as a special guest. He is not on the list of 23. He is called for his leadership and will participate in training sessions.”

After hosting Nigeria on Saturday, Benin will be away to the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone on March 30 at the National Stadium in Freetown.

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