Pre-World Cup preview: Nigeria vs Serbia

By George Akpayen

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles and their Serbian opponents will play their second international friendly match in the space of five days, this time at The Hive Stadium in London on Tuesday from 8pm Nigerian time.

The Super Eagles did put up a decent performance in Wroclaw to see off Poland 1-0 through Victor Moses’ goal from the spot with Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Francis Uzoho getting his first international start.

The Serbians suffered a 2-1 defeat to Morocco at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino in Turin, Italy despite Dusan Tadic bringing on level terms to cancel out Hakim Ziyech before Turkey-based striker Khalid Boutaïb netted the winner for the north Africans.

Mladen Krstajic’s men have also played two previously warm-up games with Asian oppositions last year. They defeated China 2-0 with Adem Ljajic and Fulham man Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring. Serbia held 1-1 by South Korea in the other friendly.

This is the first time Nigeria and Serbia will square up as they prepare for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The Serbians are drawn in Group alongside Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica while Nigeria face Argentina, Iceland and Croatia in Group D.

For the Super Eagles, this warm-up fixture is aimed at getting a feel of how the Croatians might set up at the World Cup though in terms of playing personnel the Serbians look lightweight to their European neighbours.

STARS TO WATCH

Three of their biggest stars that Nigerians would readily recall are Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic now with Zenit St Petersburg and ex-Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov.

The Serbians are not just about the three players though they have a handful of ageing players. There is 21-year-old Benfica winger Andrija Živković, Matija Nastasic and Marko Grujic.

Of course spearheading Nigeria’s charge in this first-ever fixture will be Chelsea winger Moses like he did in the game against Poland. Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and William Troost-Ekong are also expected to make their presence count in this game for Nigeria.

INJURIES & ABSENCE

However Nigeria have a few concerns. Right-back Shehu Abdullahi is a doubt for this game. Also, Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho will be unavailable due to a hand injury which is now in cast. Others missing are Nigeria captain Mikel John Obi due to work permit issues in China and goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi owing to lack of visa.

Despite the injuries and absentees among the Nigerian squad, Gernot Rohr’s men are in fine fettle and will give the backline of Serbia a lot to focus on defensively.

The Predictor’s prediction: 2-1

© The Predictor

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