Stand-in Super Eagles captain, Kenneth Omeruo, says the the team is determined to qualify for the 2026 World Cup finals that will be hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada having missed out on the last edition of the tournament in Qatar, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after playing a 1-1 draw with Ghana at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja after the first leg of the last round of the qualification had ended goalless in Ghana.
In their bid to make it to the next edition of the Mundial, the Eagles will take on Lesotho in their first game of the qualifiers at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the game, Omeruo said the three-time African champions were determined to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.
“Most of us in the team still remember how painful it was not to be part of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The memory lingers but then, that is gone. This is a fresh opportunity and we all want to be at the next one.
“There is always the temptation to over-think how to process the campaign, but it is a long one and we have opted to think and plan for only the match ahead of us. On Thursday, we will play Lesotho. We remember them from our 2021 AFCON qualifiers. After the final whistle on Thursday, we can then start thinking about the next opponents.”
The Eagles will be without Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, who scored three goals and registered three assists over two games the last time the two sides met during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The striker picked up a hamstring injury during a friendly game against Saudi Arabia last month and has been ruled out of this encounter.
AC Milan forward Samuel Chukwueze and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi have both also been ruled out of the qualifiers.
Omeruo added that the absence of the players would not be used as an excuse ahead of their games against Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
“We have a number of players missing due to injury or some other circumstance; we have to deal with that. Those of us who are available must step up to the plate and do the job,” Omeruo added.
“Winger Samuel Chukwueze, who got a goal against the Crocodiles in that first clash in Maseru, is also out injured.”
According to the media team of the Nigeria Football Federation, all 23 invited players arrived at the camp and trained at the training pitch of the Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Tuesday.