History is fierce between Nigeria and Cameroon and the stakes could not be higher than the one on Friday when the countries meet for the 12th time for a 2018 World Cup qualifying match.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles lead Group B with six points followed by Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions on two points. If Nigeria wins on Friday, they would have their fate of having Russia firmly in their own hands while Cameroon needs to win to put themselves back in contention.
Here are five duels that would determine Friday’s match:
Echiejile v Bassagog – Elderson Echiejile is playing first team football again, but in Christian Bassagog, he is bound to meet a speedy and strong forward, who is hell bent on making an impression. One of Nigeria’s longest serving players, Echiejile would need all his experience on Friday in Uyo to keep Cameroon’s tricky winger in check for all the 90 minutes.
Balogun v Aboubakar – Leon Balogun is making a return for the Eagles and would be relishing the battle against the brawny Vincent Aboubakar. Where Balogun is calculated and smooth, Aboubakar is a forward, who confounds and confuses in good measure. The Lions would look for Aboubakar at every opportunity and the better Balogun can ensure he is unable to hold up the ball comfortably to bring the other Lions into play, would measure how much control the Eagles defensive unit would enjoy.
Ighalo v Ngadeu-Ngadjui – Another heavyweight battle to watch is this. Odion Ighalo is staging a return to the national team because of his goals haul in China recently. Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui is the leader of the Lions’ defence and does not give any quarters. Ighalo must be ready to put his body on the line to act as an effective offensive outlet for the Eagles. He must also take every half chance presented by a sometimes lax Lions’ defence.
Mikel v Siani – One can be sure Hugo Broos has a template on how to stop Mikel Obi greatly influencing Friday’s match and he would have detailed the aggressive Sebastien Siani to occupy the space where Mikel loves to pull the midfield strings. Mikel is just back to action and may have to perform in the first 60 minutes before he is rested by Gernot Rohr with the Monday return leg in view. Siani is the Lions’ box-to-box midfielder and will want to turn the duel with the Nigerian captain into a physical one.
Ndidi v Anguissa – Another midfield duel to watch is this one. Wilfred Ndidi would have to more disciplined in his approach on Friday because Andre-Frank Anguissa is a sleek worker, who can produce a killer pass. The protection that Ndidi is expected to provide must be one put in place for all the 90 minutes. Anguissa would always be looking to produce the pass that would give Aboubakar a one-on-one with any of Nigeria’s central defenders.
Rohr is experienced enough to know the likely Cameroon formation. The visitors need a win so will be very physical but just like Germany did at the FIFA Confederations Cup, the match must not be allowed to degenerate into a physical contest because there will just be one winner – Cameroon.