The Super Eagles of Nigeria will tomorrow take a decisive step that will either confirm their almost certain qualification for the FIFA 2018 World Cup taking place next year June in Russia or postpone celebrations a bit further. Only one hurdle remains to scale – Chipolopolo of Zambia.
Gernot Rohr and his wards will have only one agenda in mind; beat Zambia by any margin and make the final group game against Algeria a mere formality. It is not a daunting task.
Nigeria had beaten the Zambians in the first Group B match in Ndola and that set the tone for the excellent performance of the Super Eagles in the rounds. They secured a vice like grip on the group after they defeated both Algeria and Cameroun at home.
Qualification could have been secured in Yaoundé against the Indomitable Lions in the return leg of their double header. A slight mistake, perhaps borne of inexperience from the otherwise impressive home-based goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa earned the hosts a point and delayed matters for the visitors.
There is a note of caution in the air for the Eagles. The last time a South African country came visiting, they shocked everyone. Of course, this must not be repeated.
Nigeria has the full complement of her players. The likes of Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Leon Balogun, Troost Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi, Ogezi Onanyi, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon are match winners any day.
Zambia Chipolopolo are young, strong agile and ambitious. They have seven point which could become 10 if they manage to do the unthinkable. It is a strong position to be in at their level.
Since the feeling will be that there is nothing to lose, the team could decide to have a go at the Super Eagles. The response from the home team will then be crucial to what is like to unfold.
The Eagles are fast, skillful and experienced. They can play on the counter attack and catch the young Zambians on the go or decide to be patient, soak any pressure and then do the damage.
Whichever tactics both Gaffers deploy, there is going to be a serious contest tomorrow and no one will be left in doubt of the price required to be paid to play at the biggest stage in world football.
Nigeria has the upper hand in these meetings. Tomorrow is arguably the biggest of such meetings aside the final of the Africa Nations Cup in 1994.
At that meeting, the Super Eagles triumphed over the Kalusha Bwalya led Chipolopolo two goals to one.
Is there anything stopping Nigeria from cementing their place to Russia tomorrow? Only the Eagles can stop themselves!
Nigeria 3 1 Zambia