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Three things to look for as Nigeria face England at Wembley

Nigeria return to Wembley for the first time in nearly 24 years to face England in a high-profile friendly as the 2018 World Cup preparations nears an end for both sides.

Back in 1994, we were coming off a World Cup in the United States where the debutant Super Eagles had caught the imagination of the footballing world before a heartbreaking elimination at the hands of Roberto Baggio’s Italy.

This time the World Cup is ahead of them, with both sides starting to fine-tune preparations before the tournament kicks off on June 14.

And there are certainly no pretensions of entertainment from Gernot Rohr’s functional, work-in-progress side, who are nowhere near the finished article that the 1994 squad were.

England present a stern test for Rohr and his charges. Here is what we can expect from the Super Eagles…

Since that win against Zambia which sealed World Cup qualification last year, Rohr has never quite lined up his full first XI for any game. Injuries, experiments and unavoidable absences to key players have had the Nigeria coach unable to play his preferred first team, but expect that to change against England.

Rohr now knows his best team, and except for injury to Moses Simon and the recuperating Wilfred Ndidi, he has a fully fit squad to select from.

Francis Uzoho now appears to have been established as the first-choice goalkeeper despite a serious lack of significant senior club games. Rohr has not exactly confirmed it yet, although he has dropped enough hints.

Except for a late arrival like Victor Moses, almost every player the German sends out of the tunnel on Saturday is most likely — barring injury — to be his starting line-up for the opening Group D match against Croatia on June 16.


Just as he lines up his first-choice XI, expect Rohr to play them just the way he would at the World Cup.

During the qualifiers, the coach stuck to a 4-3-3 line-up. Over the past few games, however, he has experimented with a tweak or two, including a 3-5-2 that just didn’t cut it against Serbia and forced him to return to his tried and tested formation.

This will be his chance to try out his World Cup tactics against formidable opposition.

This is game that decides the World Cup fate of two of the 25 players in the squad. While Rohr will start with his first-choice team, there are at least three who will be on a final audition for places in the tournament squad, and they will need to play the game of their lives if they want to punch that ticket to Russia.

One out of the left-back trio of Elderson Echiejile, Ola Aina and Bryan Idowu will get the chop. Idowu appears to be on pole at the moment, leaving Aina and the experienced Elderson in limbo. In midfield, Joel Obi, Mikel Agu and John Ogu are also decisions to be made.


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