Super Eagles

Friendly: Nigeria set for Tunisia after another COVID19 tests

The Super Eagles are all set for another pack of Eagles (Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles) in Tuesday’s big friendly at the Jacques Lemans Arena in the Austrian city of St. Veit an der Glan, following a fresh round of COVID19 tests conducted on players and officials on Monday.

On Friday, the entire Nigerian contingent of players and officials returned COVID19 negative results after tests conducted on Thursday, ahead of the clash with African champions Algeria that the North Africans won by the odd goal in Klagenfurt.

Ramy Bensebaini reacted fastest to the ball that he had nodded against another Algerian player in the box from a corner kick, to poke the ball behind goalkeeper Maduka Okoye. That turned out to be the only goal of the match.

Back in an der Glan, Coach Rohr has told his players they need to step up their game to make Nigerians happy after the defeat by Algeria drew flaks from everywhere.

The Franco-German tactician admits the absence of a number of first-team honchos somewhat weakened the texture of his band, but has challenged the squad to up the ante and show vibrancy especially in the fore against the 2004 African champions.

“We definitely must put up a greater effort against the Tunisians. It is an opportunity for some of the players to rise up to the occasion, stake a claim. They are ready to go and I believe we would see a much better game on Tuesday.”

Nigeria capped four new players against the African champions, with midfield dependables Wilfred Ndidi, Joseph Ayodele-Aribo and Oghenekaro Etebo, as well as forward Victor Osimhen unavailable. In their absence, Rohr had to start first-cap Frank Onyeka along Alex Iwobi and defender Oluwasemilogo Ajayi in midfield, and Paul Onuachu as the lone striker.

In a match that also saw wing back Zaidu Sanusi, centre-back Kevin Akpoguna and midfielder Samson Tijani also earn their first senior caps, the Eagles huffed and puffed and strove hard to find cohesion and some sort of solidity, but failed to match the mentality and organization of the Fennecs.

On Tuesday night, the three-time African champions come across the same team they defeated to clinch bronze medal at last year’s AFCON finals in Egypt, and have no illusions they must be at their best against a motivated Carthage Eagles who thumped Sudan 3-0 in Tunis on Friday.

All 24 players in camp were involved in Monday evening’s training session, and are available for selection. Goalkeepers Dele Alampasu and Matthew Yakubu, defenders Kenneth Omeruo, Chidozie Awaziem, Olaoluwa Aina and Jamilu Collins and forwards Cyril Dessers and Chidera Ejuke were not part of the run-out with Algeria and could be considered for action on Tuesday night.

Tunisia have not beaten Nigeria in a competitive game since the 2004 AFCON that they hosted, when they edged the Super Eagles on penalty shoot-out after both teams tied 1-1 in regulation and extra time at the Stade Olympique in Rades, outside Tunis.

Matches between Nigeria and Tunisia have always been supercharged, the 2004 encounter no less so. After Jay Jay Okocha gave Nigeria the lead from the spot, Tunisia restored parity with only eight minutes left, Khaled Badra also poking in from the spot. Osaze Odemwingie missed during the shoot-out and the Eagles had to be content with the bronze medals after beating Mali. Tunisia went to defeat Morocco in the final for their only continental title so far.

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