By John Essien
Nigeria will be looking to maintain a stunning start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, when they host Central African Republic (CAR) at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Les Fauves will be keen to upset the hosts and grab their first win in Group C, after picking up one point from their opening two games.
The Super Eagles, who are gearing up to make their seventh appearance at the quadrennial tournament next year in Qatar, began their journey to qualification on September 3 when they claimed a 2-0 victory over Liberia.
Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho put on a headline-grabbing performance as he hit a first-half brace to hand the Super Eagles a comfortable win in Lagos.
Gernot Rohr’s men followed up the victory with a hard fought 2-1 win over Cape Verde at the Estadio Municipal Aderito Sena four days later –leaving them unbeaten in their group with six points from two games.
After falling behind to Dylan Tavares’s 19th-minute strike, Victor Osimhen levelled the scores 10 minutes later before Kenny Rocha Santos scored an own goal in the 76th minute to turn the game around.
Meanwhile, Central African Republic kicked off their quest for a maiden appearance at the World Cup on a quite impressive note as they forced Cape Verde to a 1-1 draw on September 1.
Julio Tavares, 32, broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, before Tresor Toropite struck in the 53rd minute to force a share of the spoils.
However, Les Fauves failed to build on that performance as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Liberia at the Stade de la Reunificacion five days later.
Following their woeful performance at the AFCON qualifiers, where they finished last in Group E after picking up four points from six games, Les Fauves have now failed to taste victory in any of their last eight games in all competitions — picking up two draws and losing six since a 2-0 win over Burundi back in November 2019.
The Super Eagles head into the game with a star-studded attacking unit comprising the likes of Napoli forward Victor Osimhen, Leicester City man Kelechi Iheanacho, Genk’s Paul Onuachu and captain Ahmed Musa, who is two games away from a century of appearances for the national team.
Versatile 21-year-old Calvin Bassey, who turns out for Rangers in Scotland, has earned his maiden call-up to the squad following a solid start to the new Premiership season.
Taiwo Awoniyi, who has enjoyed a stellar start with Union Berlin in the Bundesliga with six goals in 10 appearances across all competitions, could also make his senior debut after replacing Terem Moffi, who wobbled off the pitch injured in Lorient’s clash against Clermont Foot on October 3.
Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, newly-signed Watford man Peter Etebo and Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze are notable absentees from the Nigeria camp, as they are currently recuperating from injuries sustained at club level.