The stand-in captain is in a bullish mood as he prepares to lead the three-time continental champions against Ghana in arguably the biggest game of his international career
Watford defender William Troost-Ekong has drawn confidence from the quality players in the Super Eagles ahead of the team’s crucial World Cup playoff against Ghana on Tuesday.
Nigeria held the Black Stars to a goalless draw at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi and will face the same opponents at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja for the second leg of the qualifier.
It is a winner-take-all encounter, with the victor assured of a place at this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Aside from having the home advantage, Nigeria possess some of the continent’s most exciting forwards in Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Nantes Moses Simon, and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze. The trio, though, fired blanks in Kumasi to make it the second consecutive game the Eagles have failed to hit the net, including the 1-0 loss to Tunisia at the Afcon.
But Troost-Ekong insists Nigeria boast proven goal scorers, supported by capable alternatives on the bench, including Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis and 2019 Afcon top scorer Odion Ighalo.
While the Super Eagles’ strength in attack leaves no one in doubt, Troost-Ekong maintains that the team also possesses an understated quality in defence.
The Eagles have only conceded twice in five matches in 2022 while scoring six goals in their first three games at the Afcon.
Ekong points out these facts to highlight that the team does not struggle in defence and attack as often as critics make it appear.
“I think you can look at it in two ways. We have players known to score goals, including Emmanuel Dennis and Odion Ighalo [who were on the bench] and I would back all of them,” Troost-Ekong said ahead of Tuesday’s clash in Abuja.
“I think they are going to feel even more challenged to score and show everyone that they can do that.
“Secondly we’ve only conceded one goal in the last five games, so maybe that’s where our strength lies as well.
“And of course, the boys scored at the Afcon [in the group stage] so I’m not worried about scoring goals at all. I see the forwards in training every day; I see what they’ve done in the Nigeria jersey.
“We’ve learnt from the first leg and we’ll try to exploit the defence in a different way. We still managed to get through them once or twice in the first leg and we just have to be more clinical,” the former Udinese centre-half concluded.