Super Eagles begin new era, battle Ghana in Morocco

For the first in almost two years, Nigeria’s senior national team, the Super Eagles, will go into a game without Portuguese gaffer, Jose Peseiro, when they confront old rivals, Ghana, in a friendly game in Morocco.

Peseiro stepped down from his job after leading the Super Eagles to a silver medal finish at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire last month.

His former assistant, Finidi George, has been given the mantle, albeit temporarily, to lead the team in two friendly games against Ghana (today in Marrakech) and Mali next week at the same venue.

George knows that the games are like his auditioning for the job permanently and has vowed to use his experience to get the boys over Ghana and Mali.

The Super Eagles have been preparing for the matches in Marrakech since Monday and according to George, the team is ready for a new beginning.

He told that the team would approach today’s match against Ghana like a cup final, saying that some of the new boys in the team want to prove that they deserve permanent positions in the squad.

Again, for the first time since 2011, the Super Eagles will be going into a game without Captain Ahmed Musa, who may have played his last game for Nigeria.

Musa was part of the squad to Cote d’Ivoire 2023 AFCON, but he did not play in any of the games. No official announcement has been made by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Musa’s status, but his omission from the squad to the matches in Morocco has elicited speculations that his playing days for the Eagles are over.

The team is without the injured assistant captain, William Troost-Ekong, Taiwo Awoniyi and top striker, Victor Osimhen, and so such fringe players like Cyril Dessers, Nathan Tella and Chidozie Awaziem couldbe called in to show what they can offer the team.

Speaking on the games against Ghana and Mali, Awaziem, who has been in and out of the squad since 2016, said playing with George as coach would ensure continuity and improvement on the Peseiro era.

After experiencing the Eagles’ training under George, the Portugal-based defendersaid: “It has been wonderful, amazing, the atmosphere is quite good, the weather conditions are good, and we are all focused on the friendly games ahead and we are all getting along with our new coach.

“Coach George is doing amazingly well with the training sessions, and I hope we are going to have a good run with him.”

Today’s match is Nigeria’s first encounter with Ghana since the Black Stars deprived the Super Eagles opportunity to play at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. In that World Cup last qualifying tie, Nigeria held Ghana to a goalless draw in Cape Coast and played out a 1-1 draw in Abuja to hand the Black Stars the ticket on the away goals rule.

The teams will go into the match with their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign on their minds.

The Super Eagles, with only two points from a possible six in their first two matches, entertain South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Uyo June before squaring up to the Cheetahs of Benin Republic away in the Matchday 3 and 4 games.

Ghana’s Black Stars, with three points from beating Madagascar and losing away to Comoros, are up against Les Aigles of Mali in Bamako before hosting the Central African Republic during the same international window.

While Nigeria is in Group C of the FIFA World Cup race alongside South Africa, Benin Republic, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho, Ghana are housed in Group I with Mali, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros Islands and Chad.

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