Nigeria and Uganda do battle again in an international friendly expected to attract a huge crowd to the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, later today.
The international friendly comes off the back of qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations for both countries following Matchday 5 games over the weekend.
Three-time champions Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa’s Bafana Bafana at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg to be sure of a ticket from Group E ahead of the final matchday, while the Cranes piped Cape Verde 1-0 in Kampala to be sure of finishing as Group L winners.
While a holiday atmosphere would most certainly be guaranteed, Nigerians can’t take the tie with levity given the history of both sides.
The cranes – courtesy of a Phillip Omondi brace – stopped the Eagles from reaching the Final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana 40 years ago.
Nigeria has however avenged that defeat in subsequent qualifying matches for major competitions, but the Cranes also remember beating the Super Eagles 1-0 in a friendly in Uyo in March 2015 that marked goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s 100th international match.
So one can expect a pretty competitive encounter later today at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, an arena named in memory of Nigeria’s longest-serving captain and AFCON-winning coach, who was in charge of the Super Eagles when they lost that friendly in Uyo 44 months ago.
Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has hinted at the seriousness of the clash by stating that his side’s preparations for the 2019 Afcon will begin with the Cranes clash.
Defender Leon Balogun, injured in the 1-1 draw with South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday, has been excused from the match, otherwise Nigeria’s 2019 AFCON ticket-winning squad is intact.
It remains to be seen whether the coach retains the bulk of the side that clinched the Afcon ticket in the 1-1 draw with Bafana Bafana weekend, or if fresh players are given a run in the team.
Uganda’s 31-man delegation flew into Lagos on Monday and then to Asaba for the glamour encounter.