By: Gracious Akujobi
The camp of African champions, Nigeria, is in upbeat mood less than 48 hours before Saturday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying cracker against the Flames of Malawi.
On Wednesday, NFF President Aminu Maigari interacted with the media, affirming the safety of Calabar for the game and indeed any other game of international texture, and assured Nigerians that the Super Eagles were looking forward to a comfortable win.
“The Super Eagles will not under-rate the Malawians. It is not in our team’s nature to take any team for granted. The Super Eagles will approach this match with all the seriousness it deserves. It is a key game towards our World Cup ticket agenda,” said Maigari.
On Thursday, the camp of the African champions continued to bubble, with all the players expressing optimism ahead of the confrontation with the Malawians.
When both sides met in Blantyre on June 9 last year, the Eagles were running away with a lone goal scored by Reuben Gabriel nine minutes to the end, before a defensive blunder allowed the Flames to equalize and earn a point on the evening.
On Saturday, Nigeria need only a draw to finish top of Group F of the African campaign and reach the 10-team final elimination round, where a home-and-away fixture will determine Africa’s five flag-bearers at the global showpiece in Brazil next year summer.
The Flames, on seven points, need to win at the U. J. Esuene Stadium to shock Nigeria and move into the final round instead. The Super Eagles have never lost an international game at Canaan City.
While history and the odds may be stacked against the visitors, Coach Stephen Keshi is taking no chances, expressing his resolve to put Nigeria’s best legs forward on Saturday.
“We are cruising well but not yet over the line. We have to send the
guys out there to get the job done,” Keshi said on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, Malawi’s delegation of 21 players and seven officials flew into Abuja from Accra, where the team travelled through after losing a friendly against Botswana. The team was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by NFF General Secretary, Musa Amadu and other NFF top management.
On ground since Monday were General Secretary of the Football Association of Malawi,
Suzgo Nyirenda and the association’s chief accountant.
After securing visa at point of entry, courtesy of good relationship between the NFF and Nigeria Immigration Service, the players and officials then flew aboard an ARIK Air flight to Calabar, where they were received by top officials of the Cross River State government and NFF’s Director of Technical, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme.
The visiting team will train at the U. J. Esuene Stadium on Friday, starting from 4pm.
Amadu said on Thursday: “We have concluded all arrangements to host a very successful and hitch-free match. There is adequate provision for security, and even the Malawians will tell you they are very comfortable with all the arrangements they have seen.
“We commend the government and good people of Cross River State for their exemplary role of playing good hosts to all the National Teams whenever we call on them. The NFF implores our good-natured fans to turn up at the Stadium in our lovely green colour on Saturday. ”
Officials confirmed on Thursday that the Director General of the National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye will represent the Minister of Sports Commission, BolajiAbdullahi. The Executive Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, will be chief host.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Adamu Gumba and the chairman of the House Committee on Sports, Godfrey Gaiya will be among the dignitaries.