Only Netherlands-based goalkeeper Maduka Okoye was being expected in the Super Eagles’ Eko Hotels & Suites abode as at the early hours of Tuesday evening – 48 hours before the FIFA World Cup African qualifying Day 3 encounter against the Les Fauves of the Central African Republic.
Skipper Ahmed Musa, deputy skipper William Ekong and goalkeepers Francis Uzoho and Daniel Akpeyi had arrived in Lagos, alongside defenders Kevin Akpoguma, Jamilu Collins, Chidozie Awaziem, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Olaoluwa Aina, Abdullahi Shehu and Kenneth Omeruo.
There were also midfielders Chidera Ejuke, Innocent Bonke, Frank Onyeka and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, as well as forwards Paul Onuachu, Samuel Kalu, Taiwo Awoniyi, Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon.
Thursday’s encounter at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere will kick off at 5pm, and will go some way to confirm Nigeria’s readiness to leap into the knockout phase of the qualifying series early ahead of the March 2022 date for that all-important phase.
It is a pacesetter versus table-topper match-up, with the Les Fauves, whose 35-man contingent flew into Lagos on Tuesday evening, bottom of Group C with only one point and one goal as against two goals against. They trail the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde on inferior number of goals scored.
Leicester City of England’s Kelechi Iheanacho scored a brace to kickstart Nigeria’s campaign on fine footing early in September, before Victor Osimhen’s equalizer and a spectacular own goal by Blue Sharks’ defender Kenny Santos Rocha handed the Eagles all the points in the island of Mindelo to put them in firm control of the pool.
With the return encounter against the Les Fauves already billed for the Stade Japoma de Douala on Sunday afternoon, Gernot Rohr and wards countenance a possible six points that will make them unassailable in Group C, ahead of the last two games away to Liberia and home to Cape Verde in November.
The Confederation of African football has appointed Mauritanian official Abdel Aziz Bouh as referee for Thursday’s encounter, in which he will be assisted by compatriots Hamedine Diba (assistant referee 1), Abderrahmane War (assistant referee 2) and Moussa Diou (fourth official).
The referee assessor is Jerome Efong Nzolo from Gabon and the match commissioner is Marcelin Gaha Djiadeu from Cameroon. Nigerian Dr Ozi Salami Abdulrahim will be medical officer.