This matchup could pass for a FIFA World Cup contest as two heavyweights, England and Nigeria, in their own rights go head to head at the Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday.
The meeting is only for the third time both teams will clash after a first match in 1994 ended with England’s Three Lions edging it by a goal scored by David Platt in a friendly match.
It would take another eight years before they would face off again. The next meeting was at the 2002 World Cup group stage and that game ended 0-0.
England versus Nigeria is not a clash that often happens unlike Argentina-Nigeria which is now becoming a recurring fixture in recent World Cup editions. This is the first time in 18 years that the Super Eagles will go up against their highly-rated hosts since that 0-0 outcome in Osaka, Japan.
This is an important game for the two teams ahead of their first matches at the World Cup in Russia later this month. It will give Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr the chance to know how prepared his starters are before their opener against Croatia in 14 days.
For England manager Gareth Southgate, this represents a perfect to see his goalkeeping options in Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope after leaving out Joe Hart. In this area, Rohr appears to have already installed young goalkeeper Francis Uzoho as his number one for the World Cup ahead of the experienced duo of Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Daniel Akpeyi.
Many have talked about the possibility of Rohr trying out a three-man defence with two wide men to help out when defending. That looks uncertain now after that tactics did not fly in the first half against Argentina in a friendly in November last year. The Nigeria manager is expected to field his possible starters for the Croatia game against England.
WHO ELSE COULD POSSIBLY START?
Southgate has already dropped the hint that Manchester United man Jesse Lingard is in the fray as well as England captain Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Raheem Sterling is also in the mix to start but it looks like he will start from the bench while Liverpool pair of Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are not expected to be part of this game after they were handed extended time off. In the absence of Henderson, Spurs man Eric Dier is expected to slot into the central midfield role. Dier’s Spurs teammate Dele Alli also looks assured to get the nod.
However the Super Eagles will have captain Mikel John Obi, Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong in their startlist against Southgate’s men. Rohr’s team for this exhibition game could give their first World Cup opponents Croatia a glimpse of what to expect when they meet at the Kaliningrad Stadium on June 16.
But first, both teams must deal with this classic exhibition match before the World Cup and England looks favourites to nick this game.
England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Tripper, Dier, Rose; Lingard, Alli; Kane, Vardy
Nigeria: Uzoho; Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Idowu; Mikel, Onazi; Moses, Onazi, Iwobi; Ighalo.
My prediction: 2-1
© The Predictor NG