Nigeria could book their spots at next year’s World Cup in the penultimate round of African qualifiers this weekend. The Super Eagles can clinch a place in Russia with a win over visiting Zambia on Saturday. Nigeria will face second-placed Zambia in Uyo with their World Cup fate in their own hands. Zambia are they only side who can overhaul Nigeria at the top of Group B after Cameroon and Algeria’s World Cup chances were ended last month. The Nigerians, who are aiming for a third straight World Cup finals, won 2-1 in Zambia in October in the opening game of the group stage.
Last month’s convincing 4-0 win over Cameroon saw the Super Eagles eliminate the reigning African champions and establish a three point advantage at the top of the group with two games to play. “We must wrap this race up on Saturday. Our team has shown professionalism, dedication and determination to be in this position,” captain John Obi Mikel said. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr does not expect another easy win against Zambia, who would draw level with Nigeria on 10 points with a win. “Winning by one or two goals will do fine,” Rohr told reporters. “It is nice that we have control of our destiny – a win takes us to Russia. The players, my technical staff and I are totally focused on that objective.” Zambia’s young side revived their chances of reaching Russia with home and away wins over Algeria in September after picking up just one point from their opening two matches. “Zambia are now a much better team than when we beat them last year. Watching videos of their wins over Algeria, I was struck by the speed of the strikers,” Rohr added. “I believe Algeria underestimated them and we dare not make the same mistake. Zambia have introduced some of the African youth championship-winning team with good effect.