The Super Eagles’ 10-match march to the World Cup begins this Thursday in Uyo as the team faces Lesotho and then fly to Rwanda, the adopted home ground for Zimbabwe for their second match, three days later.
Nigeria’s most potent striker, Victor Osimhen will be a glaring absentee in both matches. But, according to BBC reports, Nigeria’s manager, Jose Peseiro is not too perturbed.
In a report by Oluwashina Okeleji, the expectation on Peseiro delivering World Cup qualification hinges on an abundance of riches at the top of the pitch.
Nigeria boasts a plethora of strikers shining in the finest leagues in Europe, headlined by reigning Serie A top scorer and African Player of the Year frontrunner Victor Osimhen – although the 24-year-old Napoli man will miss this month’s qualifiers because of injury.
The likes of Victor Boniface, Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Terem Moffi are also good options.
While there is no scarcity of firepower, there are, however, concerns over the quality of the supply for the stellar cast of forwards in the roster.
Aside from Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi, the majority of Nigeria’s midfielders are more defensively minded, a state of affairs that limits the Super Eagles’ potential.
Nigeria have succeeded in integrating England-born players like Ola Aina, Semi Ajayi, Joe Aribo and Ademola Lookman into the current squad, and it is expected that Tella will follow in the same vein.
“The players in the squad are talented and to compete against them in order to represent a massive nation like Nigeria is the stuff of dreams,” Tella added.
“Nigeria is undoubtedly one of the biggest in African football and the passion of the fans is on a different level.”
While Lesotho and Zimbabwe are unlikely to provide the sternest tests in their opening two qualifiers, there remain misgivings about Nigeria’s strength at the back.
Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho came under fire following errors in the October international window and Maduka Okoye, who recently made his competitive debut for Serie A side Udinese, has yet to regain public trust and self-belief since the Super Eagles’ last-16 exit from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria have only kept three clean sheets since Peseiro took over as coach in May 2022, two of which came against Sao Tome, ranked 186th in the world.