Tough test awaits Eagles in friendly game against Ukraine
• 18 players train in Dnipro
Nigeria will meet Ukraine tomorrow in a friendly encounter, which is the Super Eagles’ first test after the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Egypt. The encounter, scheduled for the Dnipro Arena, will be the first meeting between the two countries in an International engagement.
Ukraine currently sits on top of Group B of the European Championship qualifying series with 13 points, having won four matches and drawing one out of five encounters in a group that also has the defending champions, Portugal. Ukraine parade a formidable team that includes Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ruslan Malinovsky and danger man, Brazilian-born winger, Marlos. They are coached by Andriy Shevchenko. On paper, the Eagles have a Herculean task ahead of them.
Already, some of the Super Eagles key players, including captain Ahmed Musa, Kenneth Omeruo, Wilfred Ndidi, Henry Onyekuru and Tyronne Ebuehi, have withdrawn from the match. They have been replaced by Brian Idowu and lesser-known players like Josh Maja, Emmanuel Dennis and Anderson Esiti.
Speaking on what awaits the Eagles ahead of the big test and the likely reasons why some of the players withdrew from the encounter, former International, Ifeanyi Udeze said the players at times want a break after playing many times for their countries during competitive games.
“When you are a regular player for your country and you go there often, at times you might need a break. But I also think it is a big opportunity for other players to showcase themselves.
“It is an important match though, but not as serious as that because it is only a friendly game to us. Friendly games are sometimes basically to also give other players the chance to showcase themselves for the coach to see what they have to offer.
“We should not see it as if the players have chickened out because of the strong opposition expected from the Ukrainians, who are topping a group that also includes the European champions, Portugal.”
The Super Eagles arrived in the city of Dnipro, Ukraine ahead of the match with 18 players, who trained yesterday morning.
At Sunday morning’s team walk were goalkeepers Francis Uzoho, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Maduka Okoye, defenders William Ekong, Jamilu Collins, Leon Balogun and Bryan Idowu, midfielders Alex Iwobi, Joseph Aribo, Oghenekaro Etebo and Anderson Esiti, and forwards Joshua Maja, Samuel Kalu, Paul Onuachu, Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Emmanuel Dennis and Moses Simon.
Spain–based defender, Chidozie Awaziem arrived the team’s hotel, ahead of defenders Olaoluwa Aina and Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, and Kelechi Iheanacho, who were being expected at just after noon.
Tomorrow’s clash will take place at the 31,000 –capacity Dnipro Arena, home ground of top club FC Dnipro, and will kick off at 9.30pm Ukraine time (7.30pm in Nigeria).
For the Super Eagles, the game also serves as part of the preparation for November’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying duels with the Squirrels of Benin Republic and the Crocodiles of Lesotho.
According to thenff.com, Turkish Airline management has promised to deliver to Dnipro before tomorrow the Nigeria team’s kit bags and luggage of six players that failed to arrive with the team from Istanbul on Saturday.
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