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Three Nigerian players to watch out for against England in the World Cup warm-up game.

England step-up their World Cup preparations with a friendly against fellow qualifiers Nigeria at Wembley on Saturday. The Super Eagles are one of the five African teams to qualify for Russia and their coach – the German Gernot Rohr – has a whole host of familiar names to select from. Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Moses, Wilfred Ndidi and Ola Aina, all plied their trade in the Premier League or Championship last season. The English connection doesn’t stop there either as ex-Premier League players Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo and captain John Obi Mikel are also in the squad. We know about all of those players already, but here are three lesser-known Nigerian players to watch out for against England.

Another player with Premier League connections, William Troost-Ekong spent time with Fulham and Tottenham in his youth without making a senior appearance for either. With first-team opportunities limited at Spurs, Troost-Ekong moved to the Netherlands – where his mother is from – to get his career off the ground, joining FC Groningen. Arjen Robben, Virgil Van Dijk and Luis Suarez all honed their skills at Groningen and while Troost-Ekong failed to make a similar impact, his time on loan at Dordrecht prompted a move to Gent. Troost-Ekong now resides in Turkey where he plays alongside two international teammates – Shehu Abdullahi and Mikel Adu – at Bursaspor. Despite his 6’3 frame, Troost-Ekong is renowned as a ball-playing defender rather than a traditional centre back and he will be tasked with keeping his former youth teammate Harry Kane quiet.
Brighton fans will have even more reason than most to tune in on Saturday as one of their latest signings Leon Balogun could be in line to feature. The 29-year-old has just signed a two-year deal with the Seagulls following the expiration of his contract with Bundesliga side Mainz. Chris Hughton said of his new recruit: “He is in the peak years of his career and I am sure he will integrate well into the squad.” Balogun is expected to start alongside Troost-Ekong in Russia and be tasked with keeping the likes of Lionel Messi, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Mario Mandzukic quiet in what is an extremely tough group. Like his defensive partner, Balogun was brought up in central Europe in Germany after being raised by a Nigerian father and German mother but he has played internationally for The Super Eagles since 2016. Balogun is a strong tackler and reader of the game as shown by his statistics of 39 successful tackles and 32 interceptions in just 14 Bundesliga appearances
Wilfred Ndidi and John Obi Mikel are all but assured of starting central midfield berths in Russia and likely to join them in the XI is Trabzonspor’s Ogenyi Onazi. The 25-year-old has already amassed over a half-century of caps for his country and played in all four of their games in the last World Cup. Onazi progressed through the ranks of Lazio before establishing himself in the first-team and then moving on to Trabzonspor in Turkey. A move to Birmingham City on loan fell through last August but judging by how their season unfolded, that was perhaps a blessing in disguise. Predominantly a defensive midfielder, Onazi is a solid, if unspectacular distributor of the ball while he also relishes the physical battle in midfield, despite his small frame.

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