Key players absent as Eagles seek revenge against Mexico

In July 2021, the Super Eagles suffered a 0-4 defeat to Mexico in an international friendly match in Los Angeles, a result, which extended the North Americans’ dominance over Nigeria. It was their sixth game, with the Mexicans winning three, while Nigeria remain winless after three outings ended in draws.

Another opportunity opens today for the Super Eagles, but what appears an uphill task awaits the newly appointed coach Jose Peseiro, following the absence of key players in his squad, including Captain Ahmed Musa for the friendly games against Mexico and Ecuador in the United States.

The Eagles will battle the CONCACAF champions, Mexico’s El Tri at the AT&T Stadium located at the AT&T Way in Arlington today, as from 7pm Texas time (1 a.m. tomorrow in Nigeria).

After the clash with Mexico, the Super Eagles’ contingent will fly into the State of New Jersey tomorrow, for their scheduled friendly against Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Thursday, June 2.

The two matches have been designed as physical, mental and psychological reawakening for the Eagles ahead of next month’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying duels with Sierra Leone and Mauritius in Abuja and St. Pierre respectively.

Among the key players missing in Super Eagles camp are Ahmed Musa, as well as goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defenders Zaidu Sanusi and Abdullahi Shehu, midfielders Oghenekaro Etebo, Azubuike Okechukwu, Alhassan Yusuf and Samson Tijani, and forwards Samuel Chukwueze and Sadiq Umar. They were unable to make it to the United States as a combination of factors including visa hitches, injuries and career concerns.

The setback notwithstanding, Coach Peseiro is optimistic about getting something in the games.

“You have to be practical and face the challenges when they come this way or any other way,” Peseiro stated yesterday. “We would have loved to have everyone here and see how well they have put the World Cup miss behind them and forged on. But what we have is what we have. I have chosen to be positive and I have resolved to work hard to use the resources available to make Nigeria great again.

He continued: “I am happy we have such an excellent pool of players who are committed and ready to give their all every time. This situation was not something they created; challenges do turn up that way. We have a number of players who have been told to rise up to the occasion. Every player who gets the chance to wear the Nigeria jersey should be proud of that opportunity and give their all.”

Today’s games against Mexico in Texas is Super Eagles’ first gathering and run-out since missing a ticket to the FIFA World finals in Qatar in March.

Deputy captain, William Ekong, and forwards Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi are in Eagles camp in Texas. Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, defenders Olaoluwa Aina and Chidozie Awaziem, midfielders Joseph Ayodele-Aribo and Innocent Bonke, and forwards Cyril Dessers and Terem Moffi are also part of the party.

Eight home-based professionals, including goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo, defender Ibrahim Buhari, midfielder Chiamaka Madu and forwards Victor Mbaoma and Ishaq Kayode Rafiu are also in the US to fight for shirts.

Uzoho and Awaziem departed from Istanbul on Thursday morning and arrived at the team’s The Adolphus Hotel in the evening, taking the number of players in camp to 19.

Only forward Cyriel Dessers was still being expected yesterday morning.(The Guardian)

•PHOTO: The Super Eagles set for their international friendly match against Mexico