Head coach Gernot Rohr will this evening lead his men out against the Yellow Men in what promises to be an exciting encounter at the Dnipro Arena out there in Ukraine.
It is the first time in two months that the Super Eagles will gather together since their march to the Africa Cup of Nations title was halted by a dramatic late Riyad Mahrez free kick. And Nigeria’s subsequent triumph over Tunisia in the third place match was enough to claim the tournament’s bronze medal.
Since then, veteran midfielder John Obi Mikel and top striker Odion Ighalo have both announced their retirement from the national team. Ahead of this match, a few key members of the Super Eagles have also declined the invitation to be a part of the squad to battle Ukraine.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have travelled to Dnipro without captain Ahmed Musa who pulled out through injury, whilst also on the list of players who have not joined up with the squad are defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Tyronne Ebuehi, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and forward Henry Onyekuru.
To replace them, Gernot Rohr has handed first time call ups to goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, Glasgow Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo, young forwards Emmanuel Dennis of Club Brugge and Bordeaux’s Josh Maja. There is also a sweet recall for PAOK’s Anderson Esiti, three years after featuring in his second and last match in the green and white.
Nigeria thus appear ill equipped to deal with a difficult opponent.
Former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko is the man in charge of Ukraine’s men national football team and since failing to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the former Champions League winner has led the hosts on a good run of form with only one defeat in their last 16 matches.
The hosts, for whom this is the first friendly of the year, have won five out of six games in 2019. The Yellow Men also earned a creditable goalless draw away to Portugal in March.
They are a difficult side to get the better of in front of their vociferous supporters, having won their last five home matches, as well as keeping five clean sheets in their last six games.
It has been widely reported that Ukraine coach Shevchenko might send out a weaker team in the friendly tie following his players’ exertions in Lithuania on Saturday. Even so, his side’s five-match winning run at home, including more than six hours without conceding a goal across four competitive fixtures, demonstrates the difficulty of beating them on their own soil.
The international friendly match between Ukraine and Nigeria starts by 7:30pm Nigeria time.