The Nigeria national football team, the Super Eagles, will be looking to get their qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations back on track as they take on the Black Knights of Libya in a crucial game at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium.
Saturday’s game in Uyo can best be described as a must-win for the Eagles after they lost their first game in the qualification series at home against South Africa.
The Eagles won their second game against Seychelles put they are still occupying the third spot in Group E where Libya and South Africa presently hold sway with four points from the two games played so far.
Going by the record books, Nigeria and Libya have previously met only three times. The Eagles have beaten the North Africans twice while the Knights have a victory to their name against Nigeria.
Their first meeting was in the LG Cup in 2004 when Libya beat Nigeria 2-1.
The second meeting was in a friendly in 2005, which Nigeria won 1-0.
The most recent of the meetings was in the group stage of the Morocco 2018 African Nations Championship in January – which Nigeria won 1-0.
With the stakes quite high in Saturday’s tie in Uyo, it is expected that the Super Eagles will justify their high ratings.
Coming into the match, the Eagles have won only two of their last six matches – losing four – while the Libyans have won only one of their last six matches and drawn three with two losses recorded.
The Libyans appear to be in disarray with the shock resignation of their coach Adel Amrouche few days ago but rather be affected with the exit of their gaffer, Nigeria’s coach, Gernot Rohr thinks the departure of Amrouche will even make the Libyans fight more like wounded lions.
“The coach can change, but the players and his assistants are still there, so it won’t be an easy game because they changed the coach.
“Sometimes it’s even more difficult when a new coach joins the team because the players then want to show what they can do,” Rohr said in a press conference in Uyo on Thursday.
Rohr is not focusing on the Saturday match alone as his team will have to depart almost immediately for Tunisia, the adopted home ground of Libya, for the Tuesday return leg.
“We have to prepare for the two matches like we did against Cameroon last year,” Rohr said.
“Focus is on Libya’s strong team who had a draw in South Africa and are the leaders in our group.
“Two games in four days mean we will have to be very fit physically and technically.”
Relying on an utterly-defensive approach – which helped them to stop a fast and attacking South African side last month – Libya have a largely home-based team, who have played together for a long while
Though not underrating their opponent, Nigeria’s stand-in captain, Ahmed Musa is confident his team can stop Libya and get their AFCON hopes fully on track.
“Personally, this is the kind of games I love playing in and I am ready to help the team to win,” he was quoted as saying by Score Nigeria on Friday.
“We know the importance of the game, so we can’t afford not to win because we did not qualify for the last two editions of the AFCON. We need to push harder till we get the qualification this time. All that Nigerians want from us as a team is to win. My teammates and I are determined and focused on doing that,” Musa added.