Algeria vs Nigeria: The dead rubber still with some effect
Dead rubber is probably a stressed word these days in the description of the last World Cup qualifying game between Algeria and Nigeria. With Nigeria already qualified for the World Cup, the result of the fixture bears no effect as a World Cup qualifier which makes the dead rubber tag absolutely correct.
But the match in itself is not without an effect as Rabah Madjer seeks to begin a new era with the Desert Foxes, rejuvenating and galvanizing the squad while giving the Algeria-based players a chance. Algeria also play for pride in front of their fans at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui, Constantine.
Injuries perhaps have forced the hand of Gernot Rohr who prior had been more interested in fielding his strongest squad rather than giving squad players a chance. With Elderson Echiejile, Simon Moses, Victor Moses, Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Agu missing, there will be possible starts for players who didn’t have a look in during the qualifiers.
According to reports, John Mikel Obi is set to be rested for the game opening up another role in the midfield.
John Ogu is set to get his first competitive start under Rohr a feat which had proved elusive while Oghenekaro Etebo can add some fizziness to the attack with his surging runs from deep.
The shuffle of players would see the relatively new legs play with greater intensity as they would be keen on making a positive impression on Rohr. For a number of the likely starters, the game represents a chance to sway things in their favour as regards making the team to the World Cup in Russia. For the more established members of the squad, the game offers some opportunity grow their status in the team, another masterclass from Shehu Abdullahi would make him sleep a lot easier with Ola Aina and Tyronne Ebuehi waiting on the wings. It could be the game where Wilfred Ndidi steps out of his shell with the Super Eagles, playing with the confidence and verve often seen in the Premier League with Leicester City.
Then, there’s the small matter of the unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers where the Super Eagles last loss was against Angola in June 2004. It’s a bit of a cherished keepsake being able to boast a 13-year unbeaten run second only to Spain.
Likely XI: Francis Uzoho; Shehu Abdullahi, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina; Wilfred Ndidi, John Ogu, Oghenekaro Etebo; Alex Iwobi, Anthony Nwakaeme, Henry Onyekuru
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