International Friendly Preview: Italy – Nigeria
konknaijaboy | On 17, Nov 2013
Nigeria will hope to celebrate becoming the first African team to qualify for the World Cup with a win over Italy on Monday.
The two sides face each other in an international friendly at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, and the Nigerians will undoubtedly be in a buoyant mood after sealing their spot at Brazil 2014 with a 2-0 win over Ethiopia in Calabar on Saturday.
Goals from Victor Moses and Victor Obinna sealed a 4-1 aggregate victory, ensuring that the Africa Cup of Nations holders would qualify for their fifth finals in their last six attempts.
The win capped an excellent qualifying campaign for Stephen Keshi’s side, which went unbeaten throughout its eight matches. Victory against Italy would put the seal on a successful 2013, building off February’s triumph over Burkina Faso in the ACN final.
Defender Godfrey Oboabona was taken off on a stretcher 10 minutes into the second half of Saturday’s game and could be a doubt for the trip to London.
Nigeria faces an Italy side that was equally impressive in qualifying, as Cesare Prandelli’s outfit also went unbeaten with six wins and four draws from its 10 fixtures in Group B of the European section.
Italy was given a stern test on Friday by Germany, which went in front at San Siro through Mats Hummels before AC Milan right back Ignazio Abate earned his side a 1-1 draw to maintain Italy’s record of having not lost to the Germans since 1995.
Prandelli will be without Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli, who limped out of Friday’s clash with a thigh injury and has returned to his club.
After the draw with Germany, Prandelli said he plans to use Monday’s game as a chance to rotate his squad.
“This team can certainly improve and we’ve got to focus on having the right fitness levels in Brazil,” he said. “We now have two days to recover and the plan is to put out an entirely new team in the next game.”