Nigeria vs Zambia World Cup: Nigeria book their place in the World Cup
Alex Iwobi scored a second-half winner as Nigeria became the first African nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Zambia in Uyo on Saturday.
The win moved Nigeria to 13 points and an unassailable lead at the top of Group B with one round of qualification matches to be played next month.
The Arsenal striker netted with a neat finish inside the box on 73 minutes of an open contest in which Wilfred Ndidi and Simon Moses had earlier missed good chances to ease the nerves of the home side.
Nigeria have now qualified for six of the last seven World Cup finals, missing out only in 2006. They reached the second round in Brazil in 2014, before losing 2-0 to France in Brasilia.
Nigeria vs Zambia live stream online: as it happened
Nigeria vs Zambia live stream online: Preview
A sixth World Cup finals appearance awaits Nigeria as they welcome Zambia to the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo. Nigeria first qualified for the international football showpiece in 1994 and are looking in good shape to do so once again. Zambia lie just three points behind the group leaders having won two, drawn one and lost one but know it will be a tough ask to get anything out of this, the penultimate game.
Nigeria latest news
The 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in Ndola 12 months ago helped get the country behind a team who had failed to feature at back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations. It set the tone for the Super Eagles' excellent campaign in a tough Group B, with Nigeria not dropping points until matchday four in Yaounde. The 1-1 draw in Cameroon, combined with Zambia winning in Algeria last month, have meant the Chipolopolo are now the only team between Nigeria and next year's tournament in Russia.
Head coach Gernot Rohr will take much of the credit for the progress the team has made since he took charge in July 2016. The German is now only 90 minutes away from his biggest accomplishment of a career that has taken him to French club Bordeaux, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia as well as the national teams of Niger, Burkina Faso and Gabon.
He said: "It will be an interesting but difficult game against Zambia, who we beat 2-1 in Ndola [last year], but they have changed [since]. It's an important game and we have it in our hands to win. If we have our players fit, we will be at the World Cup.
"I hope we repeat what we did against Cameroon,” he said, referring to the 4-0 win in Uyo.
Local sports journalist, Arafat Aliu, summed the manager’s contribution up nicely: "Rohr has got the team to deliver. He understands some of the politics in Nigeria and this has helped him in his team selection."
There is a real English Premier League influence contributing to their success. Captain John Obi Mikel, previously of Chelsea and now plying his trade at Chinese club Tianjin TEDA, has been leading the side by example and current star at the Bridge, Victor Moses, has continued his rise for the national team, with seemingly renewed commitment. Several young players, like Leicester City pair Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi and Arsenal's Alex Iwobi, have stepped up to the full international game after gaining first-team experience in the English top flight. Leon Balogun, playing in the Bundesliga for Mainz 05, has been called 'our German machine', by his appreciative manager.
Moses, in his more advanced position for his country, is the Eagles' leading scorer in qualifying with three goals ahead of Mikel and Iheanacho, who both have two. Fans will be hoping for a few more tonight to put the game, and qualification, to bed as early as possible.
Zambia latest news
Although qualification is now looking unlikely Zambia will travel to their group rivals hopeful of causing an upset and putting the Nigerian celebrations on ice. The Chipolopolo have a strong impact from the team spending a lot of money in the CAF Champions League, TP Mazembe, this giving a certain unity to the team.
Team coach Wedson Nyirenda has been keen to keep his team’s tactics under wraps ahead of Saturday’s qualifier.
“When we get onto the pitch we shall size up the Eagles and know how to play them,” he said at a pre-match press conference. He went on to admit that the Nigerian side was more experienced than his, however, they would look to use their own strengths
Nigeria vs Zambia live online: potential team line-ups
Nigeria XI: Ezenwa, Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Echiejile, Onazi, Ndidi, Mikel, Moses, Simon, Ighalo.
Zambia XI: Mweene, Sunzu, Tembo, Kapumbu, Silwimba, Mtonga, Mwepu, Mulenga, Mbewe, Shonga, Daka.
Nigeria vs Zambia live online: odds and betting
The hosts are priced at 4/9 to beat Zambia and progress east on the road to Russia.
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