ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, July 5 – Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be without their skipper John Obi Mikel for their grand Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tie against Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in Alexandria on Saturday evening.
Mikel, who made a return to the team after missing out since their campaign at the World Cup has played in two games for Nigeria in Egypt but picked up a knee injury during training.
“I don’t think he (Mikel) will be ready to play tomorrow because of the injury, but the good news is that we have Collins (Jamilu) back. I am not sure he can start but definitely he will be on the bench,” head coach Gernot Rohr said on Friday afternoon.
But whether or not his captain will be available is not giving the tactician sleepless nights, but the challenge of facing a strong Cameroonian side on the backdrop of their loss to Madagascar in their last group match is what Rohr is scratching his head about.
Cameroon came through the group stages unbeaten, though they finished second spot on account of goals scored, but Rohr has admitted it will be a tough challenge against the five time champions.
“Cameroon is a team which is one of the best in this AFCON and we know it will not be easy. But we will want to show that the Madagascar loss was an accident and our team is good and can compete with the top teams,” Rohr further said.
“The loss was a lesson in humility for our players and our fans. It showed us that we cannot underrate anyone,” the tactician added.
The balance scales will tip hugely in Nigeria’s favor in this tie as they have not lost to the reigning champions in their last five meetings. Their last two meetings were during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers where Nigeria won 4-0 at home and drew 1-1 away in Yaounde.
Cameroon’s head coach Clarence Seedorf knows just how important that game is, but has chosen to keep calm and focus on getting a result, side stepping the pressure from outside especially in this specific tie against Nigeria.
“Winning is my second skin and I am not worried and I am not under any pressure. It is joy and passion for Cameroon to be here and defend the title and play against a team like Nigeria. We cannot stress ourselves before the match; we will leave that to the fans. For us, it is to focus on what we have to do,” the legendary AC Milan defender stated.
“I think Nigeria has not shown their full potential in this tournament so far and in big matches, teams tend to show their huge potential. We know we will play against a quality Nigerian side and we need to be at our best. We know how big this match is and I don’t need to remind my players because they are intelligent enough to know it,” the tactician further stated.
He has also acknowledged their poor scoring touch having failed to score in two consecutive matches, but adds he is under no pressure.
In 22 meetings, Cameroon have only beaten Nigeria four times while the Super Eagles have enjoyed victory 11 times.