By: Christopher Emenyonu
“A dead rubber game” the title everyone has given the Nigeria versus São Tomé and Principe 2023 AFCON qualifiers in Uyo. And rightly so it is.
The game is of no consequence to the context of the qualifiers as the Super Eagles and indeed the group looks settled already but the Super Eagles do look to have their mind ahead on the future tasks.
The 2026 World Cup Qualifiers and the 2023 AFCON are just around the corner. This is obviously on the mind of both the coaches and the players and they are showing it in every single training they had so far in Uyo.
But first, they have to savor the experience of returning to Uyo, scoring goals against their opponents, and giving the fans what to cheer for.
Osimhen and the Super Eagles: The Godswill Akpabio Stadium beauty
This edifice is arguably the best footballing structure in Nigeria. In fact, the stadium is the only one CAF approves in Nigeria, so that tells you everything.
The last time the Super Eagles played in Uyo was in 2019 and since then they have played in Benin, Lagos, and Abuja. But there were at different points complaints about the pitches.
“The grass is really great.”
Those were the words of Ademola Lookman who since being capped for the Super Eagles has not played in the Nest of Champions.
The stadium had hosted 2021, the CAF Confederation Cup finals, and remains the only stadium to host an international football match in recent years, so it remains arguably the best in the country.
The ginger of Jose Peseiro
A new contract, a new motivation. Perhaps those are the factors backing Jose’s drive for the Super Eagles.
The Portuguese as announced by the NFF took a pay cut, an extra job, and a new target to remain the head coach of the Super Eagles.
But in all of that, his determination to get the job done is not questioned as seen in training. The gaffer sets out his instructions and wants them executed rightly so.
“Don’t just shoot, score!!!”
Jose in the off-ball and goal-scoring drills kept saying those words to the attackers anytime they failed to find the back of the net.
His hunger for a better team is evident in his actions.
Named on the 30-man list for the Ballon d’Or, Napoli star man, Victor Osimhen is just as hungry as ever. He wants to achieve more success.
And just like the 2023 season where he led Napoli to the Serie A title, the 2023 AFCON might fall kindly for the striker. Having missed the 2022 edition, Victor knows he has to do well at the AFCON.
Although there is a lot of competition for the striking position, Victor looks to have sealed his starter’s shirt in the team.
Osimhen and the Super Eagles: Home wins and confidence
“I can’t remember the last time we won at home”
Samuel Chukwueze pointed that out in his interview with the media. The last time Nigeria won a game at home was In 2022; the 2-1 win over Sierra Leone in the qualifiers.
But their last home match was a 1-0 loss to Guinea-Bissau in March 2023 so Samuel was right, it is a year the Super Eagles had won on home turf.
This might have downed the confidence of the players whenever they are playing in Nigeria and perhaps gives the opponents more confidence that they can get results in Nigeria.
Either way, Samuel does look like he is not having any of that. He is hungry to return to winning games in front of home fans.
The Super Eagles will kick the ball for the last time in the 2023 AFCON qualifiers on Sunday against São Tomé and Principe at 5 pm local time and it will be a good way to usher in the long road to the 2026 World Cup.