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If Sierra Leone had any dream of walking over Nigeria in their African Cup of Nations qualifier in Benin on Friday that hope was dashed yesterday with the presence of 80 per cent of the players invited for the game in the Edo State capital.
There were fears on Monday that the Nigerian team could be sanctioned by CAF and the game awarded to Sierra Leone if the Nigerian players failed to find their way to Benin for the game. Confederation of African Football (CAF) requires that a team must have at least 15 players on match day for the game to go on. Failure to achieve that number means the offending team will lose the game to the opponent.
There were suggestions that the NFF could resort to home-based players to shore up the number to avoid CAFG sanctions if the overseas-based stars failed to come for the game.
But such thoughts were banished yesterday when Coach Gernot Rohr and his technical crew welcomed the bulk of the invited players to the team’s Etherno Hotel camp in Benin.
Skipper Ahmed Musa, goalkeepers Maduka Okoye and Sebastian Osigwe, Alex Iwobi, Ola Aina, William Troost-Ekong, Joe Aribo, Kevin Akpoguma, Zaidu Sanusi, Tyronne Ebuehi, Oghenekaro Etebo, and Leon Balogun took part in the first training session, which started at 5.30 p.m. yesterday.
Also in the training session was Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who is one of the players on standby. Chidozie Awaziem, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Emmanuel Dennis arrived late last night.
Attackers, Paul Onuachu and Samuel Chukwueze, who left Lagos last night for Benin, are expected to join today’s training sessions.
Speaking on the readiness of the players to qualify for the Nations Cup after the two games against Sierra Leone, Chukwueze, who was in Lagos as a guest of the NFF during the unveiling of the federation’s partnership with CIG Motors, said the consensus was that everybody must put in a shift to ensure the convincing defeat of the Leone Stars.
He said, “We know there are no more minnows, but we have the quality to beat this Sierra Leone anywhere any time.”
“The NFF has done well for us and we want to reward them with a good win on Friday.”
Skipper Musa sees Friday’s game as another opportunity to show Nigerians that the team has come of age.
Musa, who has a family relationship with Edo State, said, “Playing in Benin is great. It is the home town of my mum. I would have loved to see my family members come around and watch this game, but there is nothing we can do about it.
It is all about the situation of things at the moment. The pandemic here in Nigeria and other parts of the world. There is nothing we can do. We have to play the game without the fans.
“We will do our best to qualify and make the fans happy,” he added.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK