BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Just a day after the 38th anniversary of Nigeria meeting England on the sacred turf of the Old Wembley Stadium in London, the Super Eagles are up against Portugal in a prestige friendly match in Lisboa.
Both teams are former continental champions as Nigeria ruled Africa in 1980, 1994 and 2013. Portugal were European champions in 2016.
The match is unique in a way most observers may not have thought. With the match, the Nigerian national team will have played all teams habouring the most iconic footballers of the world – Pele, Diego Maradona, Neymar and now Cristiano Ronaldo, if fielded.
Nigeria national team, then called Green Eagles played a Santos team that feaured the legendary Pele in Lagos in 1969. The match played at Onikan ended 2-2. Pele scored the two goals for Santos.
The Super Eagles played Argentina that had the legendary Diego Maradona as a player in 1994 and as coach in 2010.
The team also played Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in 2010, 2014 and 2018, apart from the Olympic squad also having encounter with Messi in 2008.
The cycle is comleted this Thursday with the game against a Ronaldo inspired Portugal.
It will be the first time Nigeria and Portugal will clash at Grade A level. Past encounters of both countries have been at men’s age-grade competitions.
There have been nine of such. Three are at the U-17 level of which each won one and drew another one.
At the U20 level, the pendulum swings overwhemingly in favour of Porugal who won five of the six clashes. Nigeria only managed a goalless draw in a 13 July 2011 clash.
This Thursday’s match is an encounter with contrasting fortunes for the teams. Portugal are heading to Qatar 2022 while Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be absent.
Portugal go into the game against the background of winning three of their last six matches. The beat Czech Republic 4-0 and 2-0 in UEFA Nations League and Switzerland 4-0 in the same competition.
They however lost 0-1 at home to Spain and and away to Switzerland. They drew 1-1 away to Spain in the Nations .
For Nigeria, the Super Eagles lost four of their last four matches: 0-2 to Costa Rica, 1-2 to Algeria, 0-1 to Ecuador and 1-2 to Mexico.
PORTUGAL V GOLDEN EAGLETS
- 7 Feb.1997 Portugal 0 -2 Nigeria
- 1 Feb.1999 Portugal 2-2 Nigeria
- 27 Jan.2001 Portugal 6-0 Nigeria
PORTUGAL VS FLYING EAGLES
- 20 Feb.1989 Portugal 1-0 Nigeria
- 3 Mar. 1989 Portugal 2-0 Nigeria
- 13 July 2011 Portugal 0-0 Nigeria
- 20 July 2011 Portugal 2-0 Nigeria
- 6 June 2013 Portugal 2-1 Nigeria
- 21 June 2013 Portugal 3-2 Nigeria