As the hour to the crunchy Nigeria-South African clash draw nearer, Sports Village Square has gathered that a South African publication, Times Media Digit has marked out five Super Eagles players that Stuart Baxter and his wards must pay special attention to.
The South Africans understand the desperation of Nigeria after missing out in the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.
They note that the Super Eagles are without some experienced stars for Saturday’s opening 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa in Uyo‚ including captain John Obi Mikel‚ but still have plenty of talent from the top leagues in Europe.
The Times Media Digital picks out five Super Eagles players who could prove match-winners at the weekend.
1) KELECHI IHEANACHO (MANCHESTER CITY‚ ENGLAND)
“Iheanacho did not have the greatest season with English giants Manchester City as he battled with the competition up front at Eastlands‚ but he remains a key figure in the national set-up.
“He has scored six goals in nine internationals for the Super Eagles and will be their lead forward again‚ with his last goal coming in the 3-0 win over Togo at the weekend.
“The 20-year-old is lively up front and arguably the best “finisher” in the team. He has scored 21 goals in 64 games for City‚ but is expected to leave in the next transfer window‚ with West Ham United leading the race for his signature.
2) ALEX IWOBI (ARSENAL‚ ENGLAND)
“Iwobi can play on either wing and is coming off a good season for Arsenal‚ where the 21-year-old netted four goals from his wide positions.
He also netted for Nigeria in their 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory over Zambia in October last year‚ his only international goal to date.
“The versatile attacking midfielder can play as an out-and-out winger‚ or up front in a 4-3-3 with Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa.
“Iwobi was born in Lagos but played junior football for England having moved to that country at the age of four. However‚ he committed to the Super Eagles in 2015 and had been a regular when fit since.”
3) AHMED MUSA (LEICESTER CITY‚ ENGLAND)
“The most experienced of the forwards in the Nigeria squad‚ Musa is a player who has hurt Bafana in the past‚ denying them a rare win when he equalised late on in a 1-1 draw in March 2015.
“He has flourished under Rohr and scored twice in the 2-0 win over Togo at the weekend‚ showing form coming into the qualifier with Bafana.
“Musa can also play as a winger or an out-and-out forward and has blistering pace to go with a rocket shot.
“He can also be a bit wayward though and is in many respects a similar player in style to Bafana’s Tokelo Rantie.
“He signed for English champions Leicester City at the start of the last season after five seasons with CSKA Moscow in Russia‚ where he was a prolific scorer.
4) WILFRED NDIDI (LEICESTER CITY‚ ENGLAND)
“Ndidi had the unenviable task of replacing the outstanding N’Golo Kanté at English side Leicester City when he arrived in January this year from Racing Genk‚ but after a slow start flourished in his defensive midfield role to become a real fan favourite.
“He also showed his stamina by playing in an incredible 59 games for club and country‚ including both the UEFA Europa League (with Genk) and the Champions League (with Leicester).
“Although not known for his goal-scoring‚ he also netted six times to show that he can be a threat in the box.
“The 20-year-old made his Nigeria debut at the age of 18 in October 2015‚ though there have been question-marks over his age in the past when he was withdrawn from the Nigeria Under-17 side three years ago after MRI scans showed he was slightly above the threshold set out by FIFA.
5) OGENYI ONAZI (TRABZONSPOR‚ TURKEY)
“Onazi is an experienced campaigner and in the absence of Obi Mikel will be a crucial anchor in the Nigeria midfield.
“The 24-year-old had spent five seasons with Lazio in Italy’s Serie A before joining Trabzonspor ahead of last season‚ where he had a good campaign.
“An industrious midfielder‚ he has a box-to-box style and will be tasked with getting Nigeria onto the front-foot when they win possession.
“He has met South Africa on four previous occasions‚ including both qualifiers in the 2015 Nations Cup preliminaries‚ and is yet to taste defeat.