• We are focused, Rohr assures Nigerians
• Team targets 12th win over Lions
President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick yesterday disclosed that the body has put the necessary machinery in place to ensure Super Eagles’ victory in Friday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.
The first leg of the double-header against the Camerounians will hold at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on September 1, while the return leg in Yaounde takes place on Monday.
Pinnick’s assurance came just as Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr said his team is ‘fully focused and committed’ to go toe to toe with the African champions.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Pinnick said: “We have done what we are supposed to do, and I am very sure the Eagles will win on Friday. But we won’t sleep until then. This is a big game and we want all Nigerians to give the Super Eagles the support they need. If we get it right in Uyo on Friday, I see the team beating Cameroun in front of their home fans in Yaounde on Monday,” Pinnick stated.
On his part, Rohr explained that his men know they have a big game on their hands.
He added: “The players know what it means” to face Cameroun in the World Cup qualifier.
“It is a big match and we are fully focused and committed. The players need little or no reminding of how important this match is. I am happy we have almost the full house now and can concentrate on our tactics for the game,” Rohr said.
Already 23 players are in camp as at yesterday afternoon ahead of the match.
Nigeria currently sit atop Group B of the World Cup qualification in Africa with six points, four ahead of Cameroun in second place, while Zambia and Algeria are in third and fourth positions respectively.
The second meeting is in Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on September 4.
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles are aiming to achieve a 12th triumph over the Lions on Friday.
In 19 previous encounters, Nigeria won 11 times, with Cameroun winning four times and four matches drawn.
Of these games, three happened to be the final matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (all won by Cameroun, including a nail–biting penalty shoot-out session in Lagos in February 2000), and there were two different fixtures of FIFA World Cup qualifiers (1968 and 1989) shared equally.
Nigeria eliminated Cameroun from the qualifying race for 1970 World Cup finals, winning 3-2 in Douala after a 1-1 draw in Lagos. But the Lions took their revenge in 1989, snatching the minimum win they needed in Yaounde (1-0) to kick the Eagles out of the race for Italia ’90, only two weeks after Sam Okwaraji’s death.
While Camerounians treasure the wins in Abidjan (1984), Casablanca (1988) and Lagos (2000) that gave them three of their five African titles, Nigerians have sweet memories of a 2-0 defeat of the Lions in Ibadan (in 1989) and a gutsy 2-1 win over Cup holders, Cameroun in the quarterfinals of 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in the sunshine of Monastir.
When the two teams last clashed at the Edmond Machtens Stadium in Brussels in October 2015, the Eagles ran away 3-0 winners. Efe Ambrose rose highest in the Lions’ box to nod home a Mikel John Obi’s free kick, before Moses Simon rounded the goalkeeper for the second goal and Odion Ighalo headed the third after a splendid pull out by Elderson Echiejile.
Mikel Obi, Simon, Ighalo and Echiejile are in the Nigerian squad that will seek a repeat scoreline on Friday.