After the inspiring start of Nigeria in the warm up series to the World Cup 2018 in Russia by claiming a 1-0 victory against Poland in Wroclaw last Friday, the Super Eagles will file out against Serbia this evening at The Hive, Canons Park in London for another trial game. The match is scheduled to begin at 8pm.
Although the victory against Poland was heart warming to both the players and Nigerian ball fans, the match threw up some of the grey areas that need to really work on.
Team Handler, Gernot Rohr, has said it loud and clear to all who care to listen: This team is still work in progress! The Franco-German gaffer is not deluding himself that with the defeat of the sixth ranked team in the world, his wards have arrived at the global stage. Instead, Rohr has thrown in more hours of work to correct the many flaws noticed in the clash with Poland.
"We've seen a lot of good things and some things we must work on before the World Cup in Russia," Rohr observed in his post match review of the game.
"Friendly matches provide a great opportunity to see everything about your team.
"It is not really the same as a World Cup game. Our preparation is still a work in progress to be ready. We know winning friendly matches could give us false hope but we want to keep working hard," stressed the Eagles coach ahead of tonight's clash with Serbia.
From the rear, the lad between the sticks for Nigeria at Stadion Miejski, Francis Uzoho, have another chance tonight to prove he's good enough to pick the Nigerian Number 1 jersey. He was all bundle of fright in his first few minutes on the pitch against Poland. Though he later gained confidence as the game progressed, he has not proved yet he has the capacity to organise his backline in the heat of action.
Eagles right and left backs need more attention. Shehu Abdullahi and Bryann Idowu still need to up their games to gain the confidence of Nigerians. The 'Oyinbo' wall in the central defence appears impenetrable but in situation where Leon Balogun or Williams Troost Ekong is injured (as we have it today with a likely absence of Balogun due to a knock), Rohr needs to experiment more for a perfect stand in.
The problem appears more in the midfield with the absence of skipper John Mikel Obi. Torino player, Joel Obi who is just warming himself back to the team is yet to hit that form that endeared him to ball fans mainly due to his absence from the team due to injuries. There were lapses not common with him against Poland. Mikel Agu, and injured Oghenekaro Etebo are in the wing. One player who stands out of the pack, in that middle, is Wilfred Ndidi. He didn't disappoint even if he needs to be cautioned on the why 'too much hardness' can lead to early exit.
Junior Ajayi, Gabriel Okechukwu and a host of some of the players who didn't get the chance to exhibit their skills against Poland have the Serbian game a clear opportunity to stake for places in the Russia bound final list of 23 Eagles!
Up front, Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho as well as Alex Iwobi showed good foot-works even though the Leicester City forward appears lost for the greater part of the game.
As for Victor Moses, the Serbs are there for his picking! Which rule says Eagles cannot have both Moses and Ahmed Musa on at same time? Moses can effectively operate from the left with Musa doing his thing from the right wing.
Serbia on the other hand will be disappointed this evening if they fail to get a result like they did in the tense friendly they lost against Morocco last Friday.
The Serbians who had only lost once in their previous ten games before the fall to Morocco, will need to see a vast improvement before June as they have one of the tougher groups, consisting of Costa Rica, Switzerland and most worryingly, Brazil.
Serbia Head Coach Mladen Krstajic may look to experiment after his side fell to Morocco last week, with the option to include Cardiff City midfielder Marko Grujic a possibility to add more attacking capabilities into the midfield. Manchester United's Nemanja Matic and Dusan Tadic, the Southampton forward remain the biggest names for Rohr and his wards to worry about. Adem Ljajic is also to watch out for due to his splitting passes with Luka Milivojević (Crystal Palace), and Aleksandar Mitrović (Fulham) are the other Britain-based stars in the Serbia squad for the match against Nigeria.