Nigeria’s Super Eagles go up against the Fennecs of Algeria in Constantine on Friday with a determination to finish the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifying campaign unbeaten.
Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr and Skipper Mikel John Obi said this much on Thursday evening, as the squad welcomed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Algeria, His Excellency Demenongu Agev at the Hotel Novotel in Constantine.
“It is true that a team cannot win all the time, but we will give our very best on Friday. There are some players who have been eager to get opportunity to play and some of them will get the opportunity on Friday, and I am sure they will not disappoint.
“We already have the FIFA World Cup ticket but we have prepared for this match in the same way we prepared for the previous matches in the qualifying series,” said Rohr.
Skipper Mikel Obi, who will win his 80th cap for Nigeria if selected to play at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui, said the team is focused on finishing the race without a loss.
“We don’t want to lose any match; we will go to the field looking for a win. Matches between Nigeria and Algeria are always big, and we cannot afford to take things for granted.”
Earlier, Ambassador Agev told the players that Nigeria as a whole is proud of their service to the nation and that they remain role models for even Nigerians in the diaspora.
“Your great service to our dear country is always appreciated. Our qualification for the FIFA World Cup made even those of us here in Algeria to be very proud, and many Algerians are looking forward to see you on the field tomorrow.
“They know they have lost the World Cup ticket, but even those who work with us in the Embassy have told us they will support the Super Eagles during the World Cup in Russia,” said Ambassador Agev, who welcomed and drove with Nigerian officials from Algiers to Constantine on Thursday.
The Super Eagles’ delegation flew from Rabat to Constantine on Thursday aboard a chartered aircraft, arriving at some minutes after noon. The team was received on arrival by officials of the Nigerian Embassy, officials of the Algeria Football Federation and NFF official Aliyu Lawal Ibrahim.
In the evening, the Eagles had their only training at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui, where Friday’s match will take place, starting at 8.30pm Algeria time (same as Nigeria).
NFF 1st Vice President Seyi Akinwunmi led the delegation of officials who travelled from Lagos and through Casablanca and Algiers before connecting by road to Constantine.
The delegation also included NFF 2nd Vice President/LMC chairman Shehu Dikko, Executive Committee members Felix Anyansi-Agwu, Yusuf Ahmed Fresh, Sunday Dele-Ajayi and Sharif Inuwa, as well as Honourable Ayo Omidiran (Member of the House of Reps Committee on Sports and former NFF Board Member), some members of Management and Staff and some media representatives.
Ambassador Agev, Head of Chancery Olusegun Oladele and some officials of the Nigerian Embassy were at the airport in Algiers to receive them, and rode with them on the same bus to Constantine. There were also officials of the Algeria Football Federation.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick and General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi are expected in Constantine on Friday.
Akinwunmi wants Eagles to soar above Fennecs
Leader of delegation, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi insists that though the Super Eagles have already qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and Friday’s encounter in Constantine is purely academic, victory would help erase a past pain inflicted by the Fennecs.
Algeria stopped Nigeria at the last hurdle in the race to the 1982 FIFA World Cup finals in Spain, winning 2-0 in Lagos and 2-1 in Constantine.
“I know we have beaten them several times after that, but that defeat was particularly painful. It was the last hurdle in the race, and having beaten Tunisia, Tanzania and Guinea, the Eagles looked to qualify for their first World Cup finals. But the Algerians defeated us home and away, and their home win was in Constantine.
“I have spoken to the players and they are aiming for a win on Friday. Not only do they want to finish the race unbeaten, they particularly want to win to achieve a double over the Algerians and to set themselves in a great mood for the friendly against Argentina in Russia on Tuesday.”
Should the Eagles avoid defeat on Friday, they would have stretched their FIFA World Cup qualifying unbeaten record to 35 matches, dating back to June 2004 when they lost by a late goal to Angola in Luanda. That defeat proved costly in the race to Germany 2006, as Angola flew to Germany on the basis of head-to-head principle (following a 1-1 draw in Kano) even as the Eagles finished with better goals advantage.
Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup qualifying unbeaten run is the second longest in the world, behind Spain’s 59.
The ‘dead rubber’ situation has taken a little away from what would have been a flaming classic affair at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui. Algeria and Nigeria emerged the best African flagbearers at the last FIFA World Cup in Brazil, being the only teams from the continent to reach the Round of 16. Nigeria lost to France and Algeria lost to eventual runner –up Germany on the same day.
Eagles’ goalkeeper trainer, Alloy Agu, captained Nigeria to the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria, in which the Fennecs thumped the Eagles 5-1 in the opening match and then piped the Nigerians 1-0 in the final match in Algiers.
“Matches between Nigeria and Algeria are always big sessions. Friday’s game will not be different even though we already have the World Cup ticket. There is always so much riding on encounters between both nations,” Agu told thenff.com on Thursday.
That 1990 win remains Algeria’s only Cup of Nations triumph. Incidentally, it was Algeria that Nigeria defeated in the final to win her first Africa Cup of Nations title, back in 1980.
Algeria is the largest country in Africa in land –mass, and the 10th largest in the world. After playing in the largest country in Africa on Friday, the Super Eagles will fly to the largest country in the world on Saturday, for the friendly with Argentina in Krasnodar on Tuesday.
NIGERIA & ALGERIA AT SENIOR LEVEL
10 Jan 1973: Nigeria 2 Algeria 2 – Lagos (All-Africa Games)
28 July 1978: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (All-Africa Games Final)
22 March 1980: Nigeria 3 Algeria 0 – Lagos (AFCON Final)
10 Oct 1981: Nigeria 0 Algeria 2 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Oct 1981: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Constantine (World Cup Qualifier)
10 March 1982: Algeria 2 Nigeria 1 – Benghazi (AFCON)
11 March 1984: Algeria 0 Nigeria 0 – Bouake (AFCON)
15 Jan 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Annaba (Olympics Qualifier)
30 Jan 1988: Nigeria 2 Algeria 0 – Enugu (Olympics Qualifier)
23 March 1988: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Rabat (AFCON semi, 8-9 penalties)
2 March 1990: Algeria 5 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (AFCON)
16 March 1990: Algeria 1 Nigeria 0 – Algiers (AFCON Final)
13 July 1993: Nigeria 4 Algeria 1 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
8 Oct 1993: Algeria 1 Nigeria 1 – Algiers (World Cup Qualifier)
21 Jan 2002: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Bamako (AFCON)
3 July 2004: Nigeria 1 Algeria 0 – Abuja (World Cup Qualifier)
4 Sept 2005: Algeria 2 Nigeria 5 – Oran (World Cup Qualifier)
30 Jan 2010: Algeria 0 Nigeria 1 – Benguela (AFCON)
12 Nov 2016: Nigeria 3 Algeria 1 – Uyo (World Cup Qualifier)