Poor Central African Republic! It is not clear what their first line of thoughts was when they found themselves in the same group as Nigeria for the World Cup Qualifiers second stage. But qualifying from that group would not have been part of it. Nigeria is a formidable opponent in African football. Maybe not consistently so when faced with the cast of super talents in European and South American national teams. But in Africa, Nigeria is dreaded.
That fear will play a part when, on Thursday, the CAR’s Wild Beasts face Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Lagos. They will face a team whose entire 23 players, except a handful, ply their professional trade in Europe – with at least ten of them spread across the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A - the top five most competitive leagues in the world. CAR has no such talents and quality in their squad. Seventeen of their 23-man team play at home in their domestic league, while the rest play in France’s intermediate leagues.
While nothing is impossible in football, facing and defeating a team that will field the likes of Paul Onuachu and Victor Osimhen in front, Kelechi Iheanacho and Frank Onyeka in the middle, and Leon Balogun and Olaoluwa Aina at the back is a daunting task. And from their history in the qualifying rounds so far, CAR does not have the squad to match Nigeria. In the two games they played last month, they drew one and lost one, compared to Nigeria which won their two games. Nigeria sits at the peak of the group’s table as leaders, while CAR languishes at its bottom.
CAR’s best performing player, Trésor Toropité, has scored only two goals this season: one against Cape Verde and the other in his club. Compare that to Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho, who has scored three so far, minus the two he put behind the net when Nigeria faced Liberia in Lagos last month. Yet Iheanacho is not Nigeria’s current highest goal-scorer. Victor Osimhen is. The Napoli marksman has scored a total of seven goals for his cub this season. But apart from goal scorers, the Super Eagles have personnel in different departments whose quality that the Wild Beasts can only dream of.
There is also a dugout advantage for the Nigerian Super Eagles. Their manager, Gernot Rohr, is a stabilizing presence in the squad. He has spent five years with the national team and has qualified the country for every major tournament since his arrival in 2016. In 2017, just a year into his appointment, his Nigerian side became the first in Africa to qualify for the 2018 World cup. When he qualified Nigeria for the following year’s Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles still had two games outstanding
CAR’s manager, Raoul Savoy, on the other hand, is on his third stint with the country’s national team. He knows he has neither enough experience nor talent in his squad. His team has neither qualified for the African Nations Cup nor the World Cup even once. Mr. Savoy is therefore under no illusion to seek qualification from the group. He has bridled his ambitions and communicated so by saying he plans to, using the World Cup Qualifiers, build experience and capabilities for Africa Nations Cup 2023 qualifications. Fair enough.
His views sync perfectly with our own understanding of the tie’s circumstance, all of which are behind betBonanza’s decision to award Nigeria a 93% chance of winning the first encounter in Lagos, and another 87.5% chance of winning the second leg that holds in Bangui three days later.
Now that you know, place your bet now!