After conceding a last-minute goal that tied their encounter with Saudi Arabia 2-2 in Portimäo on Friday, the Super Eagles are determined to earn a win over the Mambas of Mozambique on Monday in order to have a positive mindset ahead of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next month.
Forward Kelechi Iheanacho, who changed the tenor of the game and netted a spectacular second goal against the Green Falcons, will not be available to Coach Jose Peseiro on Monday having left the camp to attend to personal matters. Also unavailable is Ballon d’Or Dozen-shortlister Victor Osimhen, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
Yet, Peseiro is bullish ahead of the encounter, insisting he has a clutch of forwards who can send packing the southern Africans in their only fifth-ever clash with Nigeria at senior level.
“We will miss Kelechi and Victor, but we have other good players who can make Nigeria proud. I look at the bench and see players who can step up and take their chances.”
The clash with the Mambas is the last gathering for the three-time African champions before the race to the 2026 FIFA World Cup begins, in which they host the Crocodiles of Lesotho and then fly to play Zimbabwe’s Warriors away, all within a few days in November.
In the absence of Iheanacho and Osimhen, Peseiro will have to cast his lot with Terem Moffi, Victor Boniface, Samuel Chukwueze, Sadiq Umar and Moses Simon, and hope that Alex Iwobi comes to the party in his playmaking role to supply ammunition to the forwards.
Defenders Kenneth Omeruo, Jordan Torunarigha and Chidozie Awaziem, and midfielders Frank Onyeka, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and Raphael Onyedika did not taste action against the Saudis, and could prove to be Peseiro’s aces against the Mambas at the Estadio Municipal de Portimäo on Monday.
Nigeria and Mozambique have met four times at senior level, with the Super Eagles winning a friendly match in Maputo by a lone goal, before home-and-away 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches that remain fresh in the memory till this day.
Mambas’ forward ‘Tico Tico’ Bucuane proved a thorn in Nigeria’s flesh in the first encounter in Maputo that ended scoreless. At the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja in October 2009, it was heading to another 0-0 scoreline before Yusuf Ayila valiantly rescued an outbound ball that landed on the head of Victor Obinna Nsofor for the only goal of the match. Had the match ended 0-0, Nigeria would have been eliminated from the race to the first FIFA World Cup on African soil.
Few months later, at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola, the Eagles spanked the Mambas 3-0 in Lubango to qualify for the tournament’s quarter finals.