Nigeria to play England in World Cup warm-up
The Super Eagles of Nigeria will play a friendly game against England’s Three Lions at Wembley on June 2 as part of its preparation for 2018 World Cup.
The match will be only the third between both countries at senior level, and will serve as the Super Eagles’ final preparatory game for the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, with their first match against Croatia in Kaliningrad coming exactly two weeks after.
NFF 1st Vice President and Chairman of the Federation’s Organizing Committee, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, said “The match is now confirmed. We had been doing a lot of work in the background, even going back to last year.
“Now, we are happy to say that it is all sealed. Certainly, it is going to be a big match, between two countries of remarkable historical affinity and similarities.
“We have other matches and programs for the team, and we will soon roll out the entire plan for matches, camping sites and training camps.”
The idea of a friendly game between England and Nigeria in the present dispensation was first mooted in 2015, when NFF President Amaju Pinnick met with then Chairman of The FA, Greg Dyke in London. Afterwards, Pinnick and NFF 2nd Vice President/LMC Chairman Shehu Dikko (who is also Chairman of the NFF Marketing, Sponsorship and TV Rights Committee)) met with incumbent Chairman of The FA, Greg Clarke, also in London.
England added fellow World Cup qualifiers Nigeria and Costa Rica to their pre-World Cup friendlies schedule on Wednesday.
England topped their group in qualifying and coach Southgate sees the Nigerians and Costa Ricans as ideal preparation for two of their first-round opponents Tunisia and debutants Panama.
“We’ve mostly played European opposition up to now and the Brazil game (a 0-0 draw in a friendly in November) acted as a reminder that we need to challenge ourselves in different ways as a team,” said Southgate.
“We’re going into a World Cup where we will play African and Central American opposition so we get that with the games against Nigeria and Costa Rica, but it’s not just about the games we’ve got in the group but hopefully beyond that as well.
“We want to expose the team to different styles and different experiences.”
England — whose best World Cup performance since the winning the tournament in 1966 was a semi-final penalty shootout loss to West Germany in 1990 — already have Netherlands and Italy, two giants of the world game who failed to qualify for Russia lined-up for friendlies in March.
Southgate’s team begins its campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18. They then play Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24 before concluding the group stage against Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad.