NFF President Amaju Pinnick on Wednesday hailed the spirit in the camp of the Super Eagles in Belgium, as Nigeria’s senior boys banished memories of a brief misunderstanding that reared its head on Tuesday night.
“I’m happy there is absolute peace in the camp and the players and coaches are thinking of nothing other than the two matches against DR Congo and Cameroon.
“Whatever misunderstanding that happened on Tuesday night has been peacefully resolved and everyone’s forgotten about it. Anywhere you have a group of people there is propensity for misunderstanding now and again. The key thing is the immediacy of resolution and the maturity to forgive and forget.”
Head Coach Sunday Oliseh assured there were no longer issues and that the three –time African champions were focused on Thursday’s high –profile friendly against the Leopards of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DR Congo, who won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1968 and 1974, has remained a strong force in African football, and never a squad to treat with kid gloves. But they face a supercharged Eagles loaded with plenty of new and enthusiastic talent, and fortified by some of the old guard.
There are three –time FIFA World Cup star Vincent Enyeama, defenders Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile, midfielders John Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi as well as forwards Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike (who have all played at the FIFA World Cup), and relatively new faces Carl Ikeme, Dele Alampasu, Leon Balogun, Abdullahi Shehu, Kingsley Madu, Wilfred Ndidi, William Troost Ekong, Obiora Nwankwo, Rabiu Ibrahim, Sylvester Igbonu, Moses Simon, Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi.
Oliseh called up former junior international goalkeeper Dele Alampasu from Portugal, as well as defenders Kingsley Madu and Wilfred Ndidi, and on Wednesday directed the six players and backroom staff yet to be issued visas by the Embassy of Belgium in Abuja to report to Port Harcourt.
Thursday’s clash of the Eagles and Leopards will start at 7pm at the VISE Stadium, and will be the first between both countries’ senior teams in five-and-half-years.
A largely home –based Nigeria squad walloped the Leopards 5-2 in a friendly in Abuja in March 2010. Two goals by Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory) accounted for the Leopards in a quarter -final match of the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, just as Yekini had scored the only goal of another quarter -final tie between the two teams in Senegal two years earlier.
Yet, the most memorable clash between both nations was far back in March 1976, when a young Green Eagles’ squad stunned the reigning African champions 4-2 in a Cup of Nations group phase match in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
After a meeting on Tuesday that involved officials of the Union Royale Belge des Societes de Football Association (Belgian FA), a decision was taken to stage the Super Eagles’ clash with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Sunday at the Edmond Machtens Stadium in Brussels, with the match now to start at 8pm local time.
In Port Harcourt, the home –based professionals continued their preparations for the 2016 African Nations Championship final qualifying round against the Etalons of Burkina Faso. All 19 players trained on Monday evening and on Tuesday.
PLAYERS IN BELGIUM: Vincent Enyeama, Carl Ikeme, Leon Balogun, Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile, William Troost Ekong, Efe Ambrose, Ogenyi Onazi, Obiora Nwankwo, John Mikel Obi, Rabiu Ibrahim, Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike, Sylvester Igbonu, Moses Simon, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi. NEW INVITEES: Kingsley Madu, Wilfred Ndidi, Dele Alampasu
PLAYERS IN PORT HARCOURT: David Obiazor, Okemute Odah, Solomon Kwambe, Kalu Orji, Osas Okoro, Idris Aloma, Ezekiel Bassey, Samson Gbadebo, Jamiu Alimi, Abdulrazaq Aliyu, Stephen Eze, Bright Onyedikachi, Bature Yaro, Ifeanyi Mathew, Usman Mohammed, Chisom Chikatara, Tunde Adeniji, Dayo Ojo, Gbolahan Salami. EXPECTED: Femi Thomas, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Chima Akas, Austin Oboroakpo, Paul Onobi, Prince Aggrey.