The major news when the Nigeria squad was announced was the return of the experienced Joseph Yobo, but the Fenerbahce defender, whose shrewd loan move to Norwich City for regular football has proved pivotal in forcing his way back into the team, has had to pull out through injury.
At this stage of the World Cup prelude, the most stable teams’ squads name themselves. But such are the vicissitudes of football that doesn’t mean there isn’t a room for a surprise pick or two. The eye-widening picks in Stephen Keshi’s squad were Belgium-based duo Imoh Ezekiel and Michael Uchebo, and former junior international Ramon Azeez.
Their meeting in June last year saw a brace from Javier Hernandez. The Man Utd forward may not be playing a lot of football at the moment, and Mexico mau arguably the team which goes into the World Cup in the most helter skelter manner, may not be at their most fluent, but Chicarito seems to struggle against teams which sit deep rather than teams that play open football – give him space and he will score. On that basis, the callow centre-back partnership of Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo will have to be on highly vigilant. Collectively, Nigeria will be hoping to build on their impressive display against Italy at Craven Cottage, and reaffirm many peoples’ belief that they are Africa’s best hope the World Cup.
With more than 54,299 tickets sold, the match is set to break the record for the biggest attendance for a football match in Atlanta.