The Super Eagles recently decamped to a temporary home in Austria to play two international friendly matches against two of North Africa’s finest in Algeria and Tunisia.
Although it has some Nigeria fans scratching their heads as to why two friendly matches are being held in a far-flung land while there is still the matter of the AFCON Qualification weighing over the national team.
Qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations resumes in November amidst widespread uncertainty over the future of many sporting events across the globe. CAF voted to push back AFCON qualifiers in reaction to recent covid outbreaks across the continent.
AFCON qualifiers will now take place across November 2020 planning a finish in March 2021.
The original tournament, to be held in Cameroon, was intended to take place in early 2021 but has been rescheduled for January to February 2022 – almost exactly a year after its original intended start date.
The Super Eagles still have the likes of Sierra Leone to navigate in a doubleheader next month, with an away fixture to Benin and a home finish against Lesotho also on the horizon.
Gernot Rohr’s side, despite their recent unconvincing display against Algeria, have taken maximum points from their two opening qualifying fixtures.
So far the Super Eagles have notched up resounding victories against both opponents placed in front of them. A 2-1 defeat of Benin and4-2 thriller against Lesotho have put Nigeria in a prime place to qualify.
Many betting sites in Nigeria are yet to publish their odds, and with mixed signals being sent from recent friendlies.
It is as of yet unclear as to whether the Super Eagles will be considered favourites to take home the trophy from Cameroon.
Third-place finishers back in 2019, the Nigerian national side has a lot to offer. Manager Rohr has fielded sides with key players missing for recent friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia, which provides a valid explanation for mixed form.
One of those key forward men missing was recent Serie A starlet Victor Osimhen. The Napoli forward is currently the leading scorer of the AFCON qualification rounds. Osimhen has enjoyed resounding success over the last 18 months for both club and country.
The Lagos born striker recently clocked up double figures for Ligue Un side Lille OSC last season earning a big-money move to Italy. Finding form in key qualifiers has been of supreme importance for the Super Eagles going forward.
The national side is nowhere near short of firepower with the likes of Leicester City target man Kelechi Iheanacho also in contention for a starting place.
So far goals have come from around the pitch with no fewer than four players finding the net in the first two qualifying matches.
A recent defeat against Algeria was certainly not welcome, but the AFCON champions provide perhaps a benchmark of the more robust opposition the Super Eagles will come up against should they make it to Cameroon in 2022.
Aside from the recent blips in international friendly fixtures, all points look positive for the Super Eagles going into the remaining AFCON qualifiers later in the year. Whether they will go in as resounding favourites though remains to be seen.