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Qatar 2022 race: Eagles back in Lagos, say target is to defeat Sharks

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By Favour Goodness

The Super Eagles’ delegation to Saturday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Liberia in Tangier, Morocco flew into Nigeria on Sunday morning aboard a chartered Air Peace Embraer E-195 E2 jet after a four-and-half hour cruise from Morocco’s principal northern town to Lagos.

The aircraft touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at 7.30 am and the three-time African champions were immediately driven to their Eko Hotel abode, with a gym session in the evening to limber up ahead of a full training session on Monday (today) at the match venue – Teslim Balogun Stadium.

The 2-0 victory in Tangier over the Lone Star meant the Eagles have won all their away matches in this qualifying series, and need only a draw against the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde on Tuesday to progress into the final knockout round of African series for Qatar 2022. They have scored two goals in each of the away games, with a 2-1 defeat of the Sharks on the island on Mindelo and 2-0 defeats of Central African Republic and Liberia in Douala and Tangier respectively.

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Captain Ahmed Musa, who won a record 102nd senior cap for Nigeria after coming in as a substitute in Saturday’s triumph, said none of the players is thinking of a draw against the Sharks at the Teslim Balogun Satdium.

“No one is thinking of a draw. It is a must-win match, as far as we are concerned. The mindset is to win and reach the final round of the World Cup series without any story.”

Victory or draw against the Sharks will send 12-pointer Eagles into the knockout round, with the visitors, who are on 10, needing to win at the Teslim Balogun to make progress at Nigeria’s expense.

Nigeria has participated in all FIFA World Cup final tournaments since its debut in 1994 in the United States of America, bar the 2006 finals in Germany that she missed narrowly after FIFA opted to use the head-to-head rule in the qualifying campaign, which favoured Angola.

Already, in-form Senegal, as well as Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Democratic Republic of Congo, have sailed into that final round, with African champions Algeria expected to have no trouble doing the same. One of Ghana’s Black Stars and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana was set to emerge on Sunday night after their group’s final fixture in Cape Coast, with the home team needing a win and the visitors only in need of a draw.

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Three other matches will produce the remaining two qualifiers. Five –time African champions Cameroon are at home to Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants in Yaounde on Tuesday. The Lions, on 12 points, need a win while 13-pointer Elephants require only a draw.

Tunisia hosts Zambia also on Tuesday, and would scale through with a draw as long as Equatorial Guinea, who shocked the Carthage Eagles on Saturday, do not pick all the points in Nouakchott against Mauritania. The Eagles and the Guineans are both on 10 points. Zambia, who victimized Mauritania 4-0 on Saturday to go to seven points, are also still in with a chance, if they win well in Tunisia and Equatorial Guinea drop all points in Nouakchott.

The final round of the African qualifying series will hold in March 2022.

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