We have to give everything. Yes, we started the race well by winning in Zambia, but we have to approach this match even more seriously. The Algerians will come with determination and they will play hard, but we will play harder.
Those were the words of Super Eagles team captain, Mikel John Obi, while assuring Nigerians ahead of today’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. He said they are determined to earn all three points against the visitors.
“The World Cup is the biggest stage; every player wants to be there. I am happy we have such a young and energetic team. I played at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 but there are many of these players who have never been to the World Cup. They want to be there.”
The 29 –year old midfielder told thenff.com that all the players appreciate the importance of this particular game and its ramifications for Nigeria’s march to a sixth FIFA World Cup finals.
The Algerians were said to have arrived Uyo with their own food, drink and even bedspread. For Mikel, all that will count for nothing at the end of today’s encounter, as he insisted that the team is looking forward to nothing less than victory against the invading Fennecs.
“Three points; that is what we will be playing for. We are committed and the visit of the Vice President (Professor Yemi Osinbajo) to our training in Abuja has motivated us even more.”
Nigeria represented Africa at the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, reaching the Round of 16 in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
Nigeria and Algeria were Africa’s best teams at the last World Cup finals, in Brazil, each eliminated in the Round of 16 on the same day: Nigeria fell to France and Algeria were beaten by Germany.
The rivalry between Nigeria and Algeria at senior level is one of the fiercest in African football.
Nigeria beat Algeria to win her first Africa Cup of Nations in 1980; 10 years later, Algeria beat Nigeria to win her first Cup of Nations at Algiers ‘90.
Algeria beat Nigeria to qualify for her first FIFA World Cup – Spain 1982; Nigeria beat Algeria to qualify for her first FIFA World Cup – USA 1994.
The first meeting between both teams, at the All-Africa Games that Nigeria hosted in 1973, ended 2-2. Algeria enjoyed a three –match winning streak against Nigeria between October 1981 and March 1982, but Nigeria has won the last four confrontations between both nations.
The Super Eagles have never lost a World Cup qualifying home match outside of Lagos. And they have lost only one out of six World Cup qualifying matches played in the month of November, winning the remaining five.
The Algerians hit Uyo on Thursday evening with a delegation of 61 persons, aboard a chattered flight, and had their official training on the pitch of Godswill Akpabio International Stadium yesterday evening.
The match officials, led by Hassan Osama Atta Ibrahim El Manan (match commissioner from Sudan) arrived in Uyo yesterday after spending a night in Lagos on Thursday.
The referee is The Gambian Bakary Papa Gassama, with Jean-Claude Birumushahu (Burundi) as assistant referee 1; Marwa Range (Kenya) as assistant referee 2 and; Maudo Jallow (The Gambia) as fourth official. Jean-Olivier Mbera from Gabon will serve as referee assessor and Kenyan Nicholas Chumba Musonye will be security officer.
The match kicks off at 5pm today.
Meanwhile, former 3SC coach Godfery Esu has said that determination and home support would play a key role for Super Eagles’ success in today’s battle against Algeria.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday in Lagos, Esu, who has coached many clubs in Nigeria, said: “The match may not be as difficult as many people see it. If the determination shown by the players since they arrive camp is anything to go by, I see the Eagles beating Algeria with three or more goals. The Nigerian team has a mixture of experience and young players, which a team needs to do well. Like I said, determination and support from the home crowd will play a key role,” Esu stated.