The Estadio Municipal de Portimao is set to host a gripping international friendly clash between Saudi Arabia and Nigeria on Friday, October 13.
As these two intercontinental giants prepare for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, they find themselves on contrasting paths in recent form.
Nigeria enter this friendly on a high note, having concluded their AFCON qualifying campaign with a resounding 6-0 victory over Sao Tome & Principe in September.
Napoli striker Victor Osimhen was the standout performer, netting a hat-trick, with Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi, and Samuel Chukwueze also contributing.
After winning each of their last three games and scoring ten goals, the Super Eagles will aim to maintain their excellent form against Saudi Arabia.
In stark contrast, three-time Asian Cup winners have faced a challenging period, suffering six consecutive defeats.
The Green Falcons impressively defeated Argentina 2-1 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the only team to beat the world champions, but they have lost eight of nine matches since.
Their most recent defeat came at the hands of South Korea, with Cho Gue-Sung’s first-half strike at St. James’ Park doing all the damage.
Saudi Arabia’s offensive woes are evident, with only four goals in their last six matches. The Green Falcons will desperately seek to reverse their fortunes against Nigeria.
Saudi Arabia and Nigeria have only met once at the international level in a friendly ahead of the 2010 World Cup when they played to a goalless draw at Abuja Stadium.
Interestingly, Arsenal great Nwankwo Kanu captained the Super Eagles, while the current Saudi Arabia head coach, Jose Peseiro, managed the Saudi side on the day.
- Saudi Arabia’s last meeting with African opposition was a 1-0 loss to Morocco in December 2021 during the Arab Cup group stage.
- The Super Eagles have found the net ten times in their last three matches, ending a three-game goalless streak.
- The Green Falcons have struggled defensively, going without a clean sheet in their past six games across various competitions.
- In FIFA rankings, Nigeria are ranked 40th, 17 places above Saudi Arabia.
- Italian manager Roberto Mancini, currently in charge of Saudi Arabia, is the highest-paid coach in the world, earning 25 million euros per year.
Saudi Arabia’s squad comprises players from their domestic league, including top scorer Salem Al-Dawsari, with 21 goals in 78 appearances.
Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini has named a 31-player roster for this clash, providing him with ample options.
Nigeria, though, boast one of the best attacks in world football at the moment.
Despite the absence of Paul Onuachu, Taiwo Awoniyi, and Gift Orban, Jose Peseiro has assembled a full-strength squad featuring Bayer Leverkusen’s prolific striker Victor Boniface and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen.
Osimhen, who recently climbed to third place on Nigeria’s all-time scoring charts, will be looking to add to his impressive record of 20 goals in 26 appearances for Nigeria.
Possible starting lineups
Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais; Al-Shahrani, Al-Tambakti, Al-Boleahi, Al-Ghannam; Kanno, Al-Khaibari, N.Al-Dawsari; S.Al-Dawsari, Al-Hamdan, Al-Shehri
Nigeria: Uzoho; Osayi-Samuel, Ajayi, Bassey, Onyemaechi; Ndidi, Iwobi, Aribo, Lookman; Osimhen, Boniface
Competition – International friendly
Match – Saudi Arabia vs. Nigeria
Venue – Estádio Municipal de Portimão, Portugal
Date – Friday, October 13, 2023
Kickoff time – 5 pm (Nigerian time)
Live Commentary: Soccernet.ng