By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Saturday June 2nd has been confirmed as the date for the much-anticipated international friendly between the Super Eagles and the Three Lions of England at the Wembley Stadium.
First Vice-president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Seyi Akinwunmi, confirmed yesterday that details of the friendly have been settled.
“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 programmse for the team, and we will soon roll out the entire plan for matches, camping sites and training camps,” observed Akinwunmi who is also the chairman of the federation’s Organizing Committee.
Akinwunmi who also doubles as Lagos FA chairman added: “We decided to be strategic in our choice of opponents for the Super Eagles leading to the World Cup, and in total agreement with the preferences of the Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr.
“That is why we opted for England. We played Argentina (in November 2017) without even knowing we were going to be in the same group at the Finals,” revealed the NFF chief.
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.
The confirmation of the Nigeria versus England game was good news to Eagles manager Rohr.
“This is good news for myself and the entire team. England is a very strong team presently and I believe they will give us a very good match. We will be able to test our readiness for the World Cup when we meet the Three Lions at Wembley,” observed the Franco-German gaffer to NFF official website yesterday.
While the Super Eagles play Croatia, Iceland and Argentina in Group D, the Three Lions are up against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G in Russia.
England is one of only eight countries to have won any of the previous 20 editions of the FIFA World Cup finals.
On 30th July 1966, following a 4-2 defeat of then West Germany after extra time in the Final, Captain Bobby Moore climbed old Wembley’s 39 steps to receive football’s most coveted prize from Queen Elizabeth.
Nigeria and England first clashed at senior level on 16th November 1994, also at the old Wembley Stadium. David Platt’s headed goal towards the end of the first half separated both teams.
Both teams met again at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The encounter at the Nagai Stadium in Osaka, Japan on 12th June 2002 ended 0-0, with the Super Eagles being eliminated from the finals at the group stage.
The Super Eagles already have a confirmed date with Poland (1974 and 1982 World Cup bronze medallists, and who play Senegal, Colombia and Japan in Group H in Russia) in Warsaw on 23rd March. Other dates are 27th March and 27th May.
Three-time African champions, Nigeria came from two goals down to defeat two-time world champions and reigning world vice champions, Argentina 4-2 in a friendly in Krasnodar on 14th November 2017.