Eagles begin training for Black Stars in Abuja as Maduka Okoye is out with illness

Nigeria’s army for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 playoff battle with Ghana on Tuesday started their preparations in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, ahead of departure to Kumasi on Thursday.

But goalkeeper Maduka Okoye has had to pull out because of illness and Coach Augustine Eguavoen has extended an invitation to Enyimba FC goalkeeper John Noble to replace the Sparta Rotterdam goaltender.

Three-time African champions Nigeria and four-time African champions Ghana tango at the 40,000 capacity Baba Yara Stadium on Friday evening, in the first leg of a potentially explosive fixture in which both teams will battle for a single ticket to the 22nd FIFA World Cup finals.

The return leg at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, is expected to be even more fiery and pulsating.

Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja

At lunchtime on Tuesday, 18 of the 25 invited players had arrived at The Wells Carlton Hotel and Apartments. Five others are being expected on Tuesday evening, with only Leicester City of England playmaker Ademola Lookman and new invitee John Noble expected on Wednesday morning.

Friday’s encounter in Kumasi will be the 58th clash between the two countries’ senior teams, with 18 of those matches have ended in draws. The first encounter was on 20th October, 1951, which Nigeria lost 5-0.

The last time both teams were involved in a FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture was in 2001, with both seeking a spot at the Korea/Japan 2002 finals. The opening leg at the Accra Sports Stadium was stalemated 0-0, before Nigeria won the return 3-0 inside the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt on 29th July, 2001.

Their last meeting, a friendly match that was staged in London on 11th October 2011, ended 0-0.

Kenneth Omeruo is in...18 players in camp now

Captain Ahmed Musa and deputy captain William Ekong are among the 18 players who are already in camp for the two big games.

Already in camp: William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, Olaoluwa Aina, Frank Onyeka, Odion Ighalo, Daniel Akpeyi, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Abdullahi Shehu, Francis Uzoho, Moses Simon, Emmanuel Dennis, Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, Calvin Bassey, Innocent Bonke, Kenneth Omeruo

Zaidu Sanusi now in camp

Expected Tuesday evening: Zaidu Sanusi, Akinkunmi Amoo, Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen, Sadiq Umar

Expected Wednesday: Ademola Lookman, John Noble.(Premium Times)