The Super Eagles are back in action for the first time in almost a year when they take on Le Fennecs and the Carthage Eagles in two international friendly games.
Nigeria’s last game was the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win over Lesotho in Maseru last November, The games against Algeria and Tunisia serve as preparation for the doubleheader AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone next month.
The Super Eagles play Algeria, who are the current African Champions, on Friday, before taking on another North African opposition- Tunisia on Tuesday.
Nigeria’s national team manager, Gernot Rohr, invited 25 players for the two games, but he had to make changes after Victor Osimhen, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi had to withdraw from the squad.
Nonetheless, there are still regulars in the squad while seven new players will be hoping to make their debuts. Freshsports picks out some of the Nigerian stars to look out for in these two games.
Dessers should’ve made his debut in March as he was invited for the AFCON qualifying games against the Leone Stars. However, the clash, which has now been rescheduled, was postponed as a result of Covid-19.
The 26-year-old was born in Belgium but decided to represent Nigeria- his mother’s country. Dessers caught the eye of many Nigerians after finishing the joint top scorer in the Eredivisie last season with 15 goals.
Genk paid five million Euros to sign him from Heracles this summer, but he is yet to hit the ground running and has been overshadowed by his international teammate, Paul Onuachu.
With Osimhen out, he is in line to lead Nigeria’s attack in one of the two games. It would be interesting to see the quality he brings to the Super Eagles attack. A strong performance from these two games could be the spark for another record-breaking season.
Chidera Ejuke(CSKA Moscow)
Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu are Rohr’s first choice left-wingers, but Chidera Ejuke’s arrival is set to provide more competition.
The CSKA Moscow winger had an impressive campaign with Heerenveen in the Dutch top-flight last season. The 22-year-old scored ten times in all competitions for De Superfriezen and has been praised for his dribbling skills.
His move to Russia came as a surprise, but that should not matter as long as he remains consistent. For now, he’s still below Simon and Kalu in the pecking order, but excellent performance in these two games will put him in a strong position for future games.
Kevin Akpoguma (Hoffenheim)
The Hoffenheim star recently switched international allegiance from Germany to Nigeria, but he was not expected to play.
Akpoguma was not in the original list released by Rohr as he had not gotten clearance from FIFA. But on Monday, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick revealed the World football governing body has now cleared the 25-year-old.
Before the news, Akpoguma was already in camp to familiarise himself with his new teammates. The centre-back could now make his debut for the Super Eagles on Friday.
Mathew Yakubu(SKF Sered)
The goalkeeping position has been a concern since Gernot Rohr arrived. The German tactician has had to change his number one several times.
Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa are some of the goalkeepers Rohr has used since he arrived. But both keepers have not been invited, which gives Mathew Yakubu the chance to prove his mettle.
The 21-year-old is currently with SKF Sered in Slovakia and has played eight matches this season. Other goalkeepers called up include Maduka Okoye and Dele Alampasu.
However, with Okoye yet to feature for his new side, Sparta Rotterdam, Yakubu could get a chance to stake a claim for the number one shirt.
Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto)
The Super Eagles have not really had a quality left-back since Celestine Babayaro retired. Currently, Jamilu Collins and Ola Aina are the team’s recognised left-back, but they haven’t done enough.
But Zaidu Sanusi’s emergence could put an end to the Super Eagles struggles in that position. The 23-year-old just signed for Porto from Santa Clara and with Alex Telles leaving for Manchester United, he could make the left-back role his own at both club and international level.
The two games provide him with the perfect opportunity to convince Gernot Rohr.