The Super Eagles will play a friendly match against Guinea’s Syli Nationale in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening as they prepare for a feast of Guinean attrition in the group phase at the 34th Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cote d’Ivoire.
Head Coach José Peseiro has the opportunity to put to the crucible different patterns and tactics against quality opposition, only seven days before the three-time champions’ opening game against Equatorial Guinea’s Nzalang National inside Abidjan’s Stade Alassane Ouattara
Nigeria’s Eagles are in Group A of the four-week, 24-nation finals alongside host nation Cote d’Ivoire and Africa’s other two Guinean nations – Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
The Syli Nationale was one of Africa’s strongest teams in the 1970 and 1980s, winning the silver medals at the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations in Ethiopia, and giving the so-called big teams a good run for their money at the Africa Cup and in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
The Eagles pipped Syli Nationale 1-0 in a group phase encounter at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Far back in 1981, Syli Nationale held the Eagles to a 1-1 draw in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Conakry, and in Lagos, Nigeria won with a long-range Henry Nwosu strike to the far corner of Abdoulaye Keita’s goal.
Monday’s encounter has been scheduled for the Bani Yas Stadium, and is sure to slightly open a window into the mind of Coach Peseiro and how he intends to line out his army when Africa’s flagship football championship begins next weekend.
Twenty-four of Nigeria’s 25-man squad assembled in the Gulf earlier in the week and have been training ahead of the continental houseparty, with forward Kelechi Iheanacho hampered by injury and set to join the group in Lagos on Tuesday evening, ahead of departure to the Ivorian capital on Wednesday, 10th January.
Nigeria is seeking a fourth African title (after wins in 1980, 1994 and 2013) which will put them at par with West African arch-rivals Ghana, and leave only Egypt (seven wins) and Cameroon (five wins) ahead of them in the inverted pyramid of glory.
After their opener against Equatorial Guinea on 14th January, the Super Eagles will confront the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire on 18th January, before a final group phase clash with the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau on 22nd January. Their first two matches will hold at the brand-new Stade Alassane Ouattara, while the date with the Wild Dogs will be at the Stade Houphouet-Boigny – where the Eagles tackled Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in the final of the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations.