Nigeriaâ€™s Super Eagles will Sunday confront Madagascar in the opening match of the 2012Â African Cup of Nations qualifying series.
The match, slated for the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar, Cross River State, will be Eaglesâ€™Â first competitive match after their dismal performance at this yearâ€™s FIFA World Cup held inÂ South Africa.
Defender Joseph Yobo, who just moved to Fernabache of Turkey from Everton on loan, isÂ expected to lead the Nigerian team against Madagascar.
Caretaker Coach, Austin Eguavoen has all the 24 players he invited for the clash in camp andÂ are perfecting strategies in Calabar right now.
West Brom of Englandâ€™s Osaze Odemwingie, a fringe player during Nigeriaâ€™s campaign at theÂ World Cup in June, believes the Eagles need to play themselves into reckoning once again.
â€œWe players must give our best in Sundayâ€™s match to redeem Eaglesâ€™ image both in the eyes ofÂ Nigerians and rest of the world.
â€œThe Eagles really messed up in South Africa and our poor performance was a wake-up call toÂ the players home and abroad. Thatâ€™s why we have to rise up to the occasion and play a niceÂ match against Madagascar in Calabar,â€ Osaze said.
Kalu Uche, who scored a goal each against Greece and South Korea at the World Cup, says theÂ Eagles plan to begin their Nations Cup qualifying campaign on a sound note. â€œWe are in a newÂ mood to play Sundayâ€™s match with the desire to win.
The result of the match will go a long way in restoring the pride of our nation inÂ international football. For me, I will always give my best and my expectation is to see ourÂ country come tops after the clash in Calabar.â€
Coach Eguavoen has challenged the team to play a positive game against Madagascar, sayingÂ the players must have a winning mentality if they hope to start the qualifiers well.
Eguavoen is likely to maintain his regulars, meaning that the number one shirt will beÂ handed over to goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama while Yobo and Danny Shittu would pair as usual inÂ the center defense.
Chidi Odiah is expected to play against Madagascar along with Sam Sodje and the otherÂ defenders, while Chelseaâ€™s John Obi Mikel, Uche and Femi Ajilore play from the midfield.
The coach has attacking options in Obafemi Martins, Michael Eneramo, Osaze, SolomonÂ Okoronkwo and Ahmed Musa.
â€”TundeÂ Â Oyedele