Nigerians are to have a glimpse of what to expect from the Super Eagles at the World Cup in Russia next month as the three-time African champions take on Democratic Republic of Congo in a tune-up game this afternoon at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The send forth match is expected to be full of fireworks as every player on Gernot Rohr’s 30-man provisional squad want to impress for a chance to make Nigeria’s final list of 23 players for the Mundial in Russia.
Interestingly, DR Congo that narrowly lost the Russia 2018 ticket to Tunisia sounded it loud and clear last Thursday on arrival in Lagos that they were not here on a tea party.
Apart from star player Yannick Bolasie who missed the trip here, the two-time African champions are loaded to the hilt with their big-name performers.
Yannick Bangala, Chancel Mbemba, Aaron Tshibola, Paul-Jose Mpoku and Gael Kakuta, as well as Cedric Bakambu, Britt Assombalonga, Benik Afobe, Kabongo Kasongo and Ben Malango are all in Port Harcourt for the clash with Super Eagles.
Speaking shortly after training yesterday, Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi, said that they were in no mood to drop their guard.
“We do not expect the Congolese to be easy opposition. They have a strong team made up of very talented players and we know this is one good opposition for us to confront before going to the World Cup.
“The FIFA World Cup is no picnic. We have to arrive in Russia with a winning mentality and you get that feeling of being ready only after beating strong teams,” stressed the Tianjin Teda midfielder.
Already, Rohr has thrown in his own motivational factor by telling his ‘soldiers’ that five players would be cut from the provisional list of 30 after today’s encounter, leaving him with only two more to dispense with when announcing the final squad in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria a week from today.
This declaration, plus Mikel’s assertion of the need for winning mentality, will propel the Eagles to give their all this evening, against a squad that nearly grabbed a World Cup ticket for itself.
Overhauling Tunisia was always going to be a mountain to climb in their group, but DR Congo were almost there when leading the Carthage Eagles 2-0 in Kinshasa, only to concede two second half goals that abbreviated their chances and eventually killed their dream of a trip to Russia.
Going down memory lane, the most famous encounter between both countries remains their clash in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia in March 1976, when a young Green Eagles’ squad thrashed the Cup holders 4-2 to the shock of African football enthusiasts.
Baba Otu Mohammed scored two of those goals, with Sam Ojebode making good from the penalty spot and Thompson Usiyen getting Nigeria’s other goal. In that squad were the likes of Joe Erico, Sani Mohammed, Godwin Odiye, Idowu Otubusin, Kelechi Emeteole, Ojebode, Muda Lawal, Aloysius Atuegbu, Haruna Ilerika, Baba Otu, Usiyen and Kunle Awesu.