The camp of the Super Eagles at the Hotel die Zeit an der Glan in Austria is brimming with excitement following the arrival of all invited players, and stout confidence that the mixture of old boys and new acts are capable of turning back African champions Algeria and the continent’s second-ranked team Tunisia in two friendlies between Friday and Tuesday.
Heartwarming news came on Monday evening when former Germany U20 captain Kevin Akpoguma, who arrived camp only to bond with Nigeria’s international train ahead of his switch to fatherland, was cleared by FIFA’s single judge to dorn the green-white-green henceforth. His clearance solidifies a dependable backline of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem, William Ekong, Olaoluwa Aina, Jamilu Collins, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi and first-time invitee Zaidu Sanusi.
Algeria, who have a second game against Mexico in The Netherlands on Tuesday, come into Friday’s game not only as the champions of Africa, but also on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run. They have not lost on the pitch since they were bumped by the odd goal in an AFCON 2019 qualifier away in Benin Republic in October 2018.
Two years earlier, they were bounced 3-1 by the Super Eagles in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Uyo. Both teams ended the return leg in Constantine 1-1, though the Eagles had already picked the only World Cup ticket from the group ahead of that final encounter.
Tunisia, who play the Super Eagles on Tuesday at the same venue, will host Sudan’s Falcons at the Stade Olympique in Rades on Friday at the same time the Eagles are taking to the pitch against the Fennecs in Austria.
Djamel Belmadi, the former Algerian international who coached his country to a second continental title in Egypt last year, has included standout names Riyad Mahrez, Yassine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouli and Baghdad Bounedjah in his 24-man squad to confront the three-time African champions.
Coach Gernot Rohr also has in his team Captain Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze and Kenneth Omeruo, but he has to do without electrifying forward Victor Osimhen and midfield lynchpin Wilfred Ndidi. New birds Frank Onyeka and Chidera Ejuke, and former U17 captain Samson Tijani have the opportunity to impress.
Friday’s game, like Tuesday’s, will kick off at 8.30pm Austria time (7.30pm Nigeria time).