Gernot Rohr will be hoping to keep up his record of having never lost a friendly match with the Super Eagles when his team confronts Serbia on Tuesday at The Hive in London.
His current record is three wins and a draw from four friendly matches since he took over in August 2016.
When Serbia was revealed as one of the opponents for the Super Eagles on their way to Russia, it was a surety the Eagles would be well tested because the Serbians boast a powerhouse midfield even though Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is unavailable due to injury.
The Mladen Krstajic-tutored team is on the way to Russia and will look to show that the 2-1 loss to Morocco last Friday was a fluke.
They have a formidable spine with former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, making sure things are tight at the back; Nemanja Matic providing cover and ammunition from midfield, while Aleksandar Mitrovic will ruffle many a defender’s feathers.
One of the qualities the Super Eagles showed against Poland last Friday was that they would be hard to beat after they restricted Robert Lewandowski to two chances. Also even though they did not play very well and had no shot on target during the game, they won by one moment of genius in the box by Victor Moses.
Serbia have suffered just three losses from their last 15 matches, the same as Nigeria and both qualified top of the World Cup qualifying groups.
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What would Rohr be looking for?
With Leon Balogun injured and doubtful, Rohr should give more minutes to Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem in the search for cover for both Balogun and William Troost-Ekong. The fullbacks also need new faces. Shehu Abdullahi came off injured against Poland so Tyronne Ebuehi should start while Elderson Echiejile should come in and show he has not lost anything despite playing for a second division side in Belgium.
The No.10 role
In midfield, he would be looking for a player that can dictate play just like Mikel Obi does. With doubts surrounding Oghenekaro Etebo’s participation, he could try Victor Moses in the No.10 role since the Chelsea man now understands defending as well as attacking – he also has the close control and long range shooting ability to suffice. Kelechi Iheanacho’s deployment in the No.10 role against Poland did not excite neither was it a success.
The Serbians lost to Morocco last Friday and will not want a second consecutive loss just three months to the World Cup, which means this friendly will be hard fought. Serbia forward, Aleksandar Prijovic told Blic Sport that the Serbia national team will be pushing for victory against the Eagles even though they respect them.
“Nigeria is a national team that deserves a respect, its players are physically strong and the next match will definitely be a good test for us. We will do everything to win, we will give the maximum to score better than in the previous match.
”The outcome of such matches is not primary because it is important to correct some things but it is important for us to win.”
Rohr understands the situation. He said at his pre-match briefing, “If we can it will be wonderful but Serbia will be difficult like the Poland game because they will not want to lose two times after losing their last game.”
Another win on Tuesday and Rohr will find it harder tempering expectation in Russia.