As Nigeria’s Super Eagles on today Friday, for the first time in over two decades, play a World Cup qualifying game in Lagos, in a clash against its Liberian counterparts, Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr, has warned his side against underrating the Lone Star.
Super Eagles on today, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, take on Lone Star of Liberia in one of the Day 1 matches of the World Cup qualifiers before facing Cape Verde four days later.
While many are quick to label the Lone Star an underdog, Rohr is cautioning his players that “Liberia have had a good preparation and President George Weah has ensured they have a good team, so it won’t be easy against them.”
The coach who is happy with the prompt arrival of his players to camp also said he is satisfied with their physical shape for the task at hand.
“They’re hungry, they want to win this match. We’re ready,” Rohr added.
Today’s encounter will be the first World Cup qualifying game to be played by the Super Eagles in Lagos in over two decades.
The Super Eagles will travel to face the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde at the Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, Mindelo four days after the Liberia tie.
Liberia has never qualified for the Mundial, but the Lone Star earned their place in this group stage by defeating Sierra Leone 3-2 on aggregate in the last round.
Three-time African champions Nigeria has missed only one of the last seven editions of the Fifa World Cup and is heavy favorites to finish top of Group C.
Backed by football-crazy President George Weah, Africa’s only world footballer of the year, the Lone Star will not be low on motivation when they face their West African brothers.
Coach Peter Butler’s men showed good signs when defeating Sudan 1-0 in a friendly at the Stade Chedly-Zouiten, Tunis in mid-June, only to look like schoolboys when suffering a 5-1 friendly loss to Algeria three days later.
Anything can be expected from a side that has won three and lost three of their last six matches in all competitions.
But in Slavia Prague’s Oscar Dorley and Hatayspor’s Mohammed Kamara, the visitors have a few weapons to cause their hosts some problems.
But history favors the Super Eagles, amd it will take some performance for Liberia to beat the Nigerians in their backyard.
In their 46-year history of trading tackles with each other, the Lone Star are yet to record a win away to the Super Eagles.
The former Afcon champions have won each of the four encounters played on Nigerian soil, on a 12-1 aggregate.
Nigeria has a near-perfect home record in the World Cup qualifying series, losing none of their last 24 matches, winning an astonishing 21 of them while keeping clean sheets in all but six.
Only Angola, Tunisia, and Kenya have managed to come to Nigeria and earn a draw in the last 21 years.
Algeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Sudan, Ghana, and Zambia are the former continental champions who have found the Eagles too super to tame on home soil during that period.
Despite being the only African nation to have produced a World Footballer of the Year, Liberia does not even fall in their category.
The Lone stars’ chances of picking any positive result from this fixture get even slimmer when one looks at the quality of players at Gernot Rohr’s disposal.
Napoli’s record signing Victor Osimhen leads an attack that can also call on the prolific Paul Onuachu and Kelechi Iheanacho.
In midfield, Wilfred Ndidi is one of the world’s best. The Leicester City man will likely function beside Watford’s Oghenekaro Etebo and behind highly-rated Scottish league title winner Joe Aribo.
The Super Eagles boast of one of the Eredivisie’s best young goalkeepers in Maduka Okoye. The Sparta Rotterdam shot-stopper’s goal will probably be shielded by Premier League performer William Troost-Ekong and Rangers defender Leon Balogun.
It could be a long, difficult afternoon today for the visitors, as the Super Eagles have won 21 of their last 24 world cup qualifying matches, keeping a clean sheet in 18 of them. Another comfortable victory can be carved out without necessarily getting out of second gear.
Nigeria is tipped to win and both teams to score.