By Diegwu Nwankwor
Nigeria will put her strongest foot forward right from kick off against Libya’s Mediterranean Knights in Saturday evening’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Akwa Ibom Stadium in Uyo.
Coach Gernot Rohr underscored the No-Option-To-Victory stance on Thursday, and has instructed his charges to dig deep into their reserves and replicate what they did against African champions Cameroon in a similar situation 11 months ago.
In a Matchday 3 fixture of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying series at the same venue, visiting Indomitable Lions (who had spectacularly won the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and featured at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia) were understandably installed as favourites against the Super Eagles.
Yet, Nigeria went ahead to spank Cameroon 4-0 and led for 75 minutes in the return leg in Yaounde few days later before the Lions equalized from the penalty spot.
Its another Matchday 3 encounter and another quick home-and-away experience, though this time, it is in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying race and the opponents are Libya.
Rohr is calling on stand –in skipper Ahmed Musa and the rest of the squad to earn a credible result on Saturday and go ahead to dig their feet into the ground in the return in Sfax on Tuesday.
“I believe we have the players here to earn a decent result and then go and give their all in Libya for another credible outcome. We need the points now; we cannot pretend about that. If we pick the points in these two games, we will be very close to the AFCON ticket.
“It was good winning in Seychelles the way we did. We got the result we needed and it should serve as a good motivation to continue winning when we play Libya.”
President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who is the President of the CAF Organizing Committee for AFCON, has again called on the three –time African champions to give joy to the country’s teeming football lovers by pocketing all the three points on Saturday.
“It is important that we win in Uyo on Saturday in order to fly with the same momentum to Tunisia for the return leg. Victory in Seychelles last month has restored our campaign and we must capitalize on the good feeling to get close to a ticket. Victory in the two matches will not only take us closer to 2019 AFCON ticket, it will provide us with the verve we need to go and win in South Africa in November.”
South Africa defeated Nigeria 2-0 in Uyo on the opening day of the qualifying series in June 2017, and it is a result that still rankles with the average Nigerian football fan.
Group leaders Libya have now opted to fly into Nigeria on Friday, as against Thursday that was earlier announced. The delegation will arrive the Ibom International Airport, Uyo aboard a chartered aircraft on Friday morning.
Referee Jean-Jacques Ndala Ngambo, alongside compatriots Olivier Safari Kabene (Assistant Referee 1), Nabina Blaise Sebutu (Assistant Referee 2) and Malala Kabanga Yannick (Reserve Referee) – all from the Democratic Republc of Congo – have arrived in Lagos. They will fly into Uyo on Friday morning.
The match commissioner, Mr. Andy Quame from Liberia, as well as South African Dan Van Vuuren (security officer) and Malian Koman Coulibaly (referee assessor) will also arrive in Uyo on Friday.