The Super Eagles could be heading for defeat away to Ukraine in tonight’s international friendly, as a cross-section of pundits believe the hosts will have an edge of being fresh from recent competitive matches as a cutting edge against their visitors from West Africa, who are still licking the wounds of their inability to win this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
A cross-section of European football analysts pointed out that the Eagles have not played a single match since emerging third at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Ukraine have been busy and in great form during recent European qualifiers, which should make them good for victory tonight.
Megasportsarena.com gathered that another points pundits believe will be going in favour of the blue-and-yellow against the green-and-white is that the hosts have never lost to an African team, and they tend to make the best of matches they play at home.
It is a clash between two nations that have never met before, with Nigeria flaunting a large array of youngsters and four uncapped lads against a Ukraine side known for robust defensive qualities and compact technical balance, which observers think should be good enough to keep out their visitors, who are noted for their threat down the flanks.
European soccer watchers add that it could jolly well be a huge task for a Nigerian side that have not played any match for almost two months, while Ukraine are fresh from action in the Euro 2020 qualifiers action.
Ukraine have a commanding lead at the top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group B, following their 3-0 win away to Lithuania on Saturday, when a classy opener from Marlos opened the floodgates in an incisive attacking display by Ukraine.
Although their coach, Andriy Shevchenko expected his team to beat Lithuania more comfortably, he is happy to see them already assured of a play-off place, and they now have an eight-point lead at the top of the table over Portugal, who have two games in hand.
On the other hand, while Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) see tonight’s game as a huge chance to further expose young players in the Eagles and accord them more opportunities of getting together in a bond, the players will also use it to overcome memories of their agonising exit from the semi-finals of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Riyad Mahrez’s 95th-minute free kick provided the dramatic winner, ending Nigeria’s hopes after tournament top-scorer Odion Jude Ighalo’s equaliser from the penalty spot 20 minutes from the end of normal time, after which calls came for the sack of Eagles’ coach, Gernot Rohr.
While the Franco-German tactician has kept his job and his contract expires next summer, he knows Nigerians will not take excuses for any defeat, not even against their East European hosts, who are playing their first friendly of the year.
But it surely will not be easy against the in-form Ukraine side, who have won five out of six games in 2019, as well as a creditable draw away to Portugal in March, and have kept clean sheets in each of their last three matches, while also winning their last five home games.