Nigeria will look to take a decisive step toward qualifying for the 2018 World Cup when they host Zambia in Uyo on Saturday evening. The Group B match will be held at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, kick-off at 6pm CAT.
The equation is very simple for Nigeria: they come into the game with a three-point lead over Zambia at the top of the standings and know that a win will mathematically secure their place at the global showpiece in Russia next year.
A draw will leave them three points clear with one match to play and a much better goal difference, but wouldn’t quite button down their World Cup spot just yet.
As for Zambia, a win is their only realistic chance of reviving their World Cup hopes. If the Southern Africans can get the better of the Super Eagles in Uyo, it would leave the teams level on points heading into the final round of matches in November.
It all seems set up for a glorious home win for Nigeria, who would love nothing more than to seal a sixth World Cup appearance in front of their fans, having already outplayed Algeria and Cameroon at the same venue.
Yet German coach Gernot Rohr has admitted that Zambia will pose a stern threat and has warned his team not to underestimate Chipolopolo.
“I can’t predict the score line against Zambia because it would not be an easy match,” Rohr told CAF’s official website.
“Zambia can be dangerous because they also have a good team. I don’t think it would be a 4-0 win for us but the most important thing for us is to win even if it’s by one or two goal difference.
“I have seen a lot of videos of the Zambian team and I must confess they are a very good side, much better than the team we played last October, but we are not afraid.
“We only have to give them respect but we won’t make the mistake Algeria made by underrating Zambia; they have quick strikers but we shall be ready for them.”
Following their impressive back-to-back wins over Algeria in the previous international window, Zambia head to Nigeria with a quiet confidence that they can upset the West African giants – especially if they are mentally strong.
“This game will be highly psychological, therefore we are working on their mental strength before the match,” coach Wedson Nyirenda told the FAZ website.
“Every player and everyone on our bench knows and believes that this time is our time. God can only show you the fish and it up to you to fish it out.
“Looking at the way we worked against Algeria home and away it tells a lot of stories. The boys now know and believe it can be done.
“Nigeria is a different team. We are not going to be big-headed because we beat Algeria. We are focused on looking at Nigeria only.”
The teams have met 18 times according to FIFA’s statistics database, with Nigeria claiming seven wins compared to five for Chipolopolo. Their last meeting was in October last year in Ndola, where the Super Eagles claimed a 2-1 away victory.
The other Group B match between already eliminated sides Cameroon and Algeria will be played simultaneously at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde.