Strikers Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen say Nigeria players are prepared to leave “their blood and sweat on the pitch” ahead of the return leg of their World Cup play-off against Ghana on Tuesday.
The first leg in Kumasi ended 0-0 which leaves the Super Eagles needing a home win to reach Qatar 2022, which would be their fourth global appearance in a row.
Watford’s Dennis and Napoli striker Osimhen, who both dropped out of Nigeria’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, are determined to be at their first World Cup with the Super Eagles.
“These games are the biggest games of my life and my career. We must go all out for our country. It’s do or die. Players must be ready to drop our blood and sweat on the pitch to qualify for the World Cup,” Dennis said.
“I’ve never thought in my head that we didn’t qualify. Impossible. If I’m going to die on the pitch, let me die playing for my people,” Dennis added.
“You play this tournament one time every four years, and before the four years, you don’t even know what can happen. You can even die before the next one.
“You might not even be playing football. So many things can happen. So, if you get the opportunity, you need to write history. We have to come out and give everything.
“We don’t need all the criticism as we must all come together as one to support the players, the country and make sure we are the ones going to the World Cup and not our opponent.”
Hyped up beforehand, the first leg in front of a capacity crowd in the Ghanaian city of Kumasi featured few chances but was played at a rare pace in an electric atmosphere.
With the away goals rule in place, Ghana know any score draw – at the Abuja Stadium where Nigeria have not played a home match in over a decade – will take them to their fourth finals.
Nigeria’s Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, also missed the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year.
Osimhen, who has 15 goals in 25 appearances for Italian serie A title-chasers Napoli, believes the game is finely poised between the regional rivals.
“The expectation is high, and we are really looking forward to getting the win. But it won’t be easy,” Osimhen said.
“The Ghanaians also have quality players and we respect them as a team and as a nation. But I think we have a lot of good, quality players – more than them – that can get the job done.
“We have team and individual quality. And I am really looking forward to this encounter. And of course, we’re playing at home with our fans behind us and I think we will come out victorious.”
Both players said the squad are determined to deliver and have urged the Nigeria home supporters at the capital city, which will host at least 60,000 fans, not to panic as they aim to end their opponents’ ambition of a fourth World Cup appearance.
Another goalless draw would see the tie go to extra time and if there are still no goals after 120 minutes, a penalty shoot-out will decide which of the rivals goes to Qatar.
Starting pair from the first leg, Villarreal forward Samuel Chukwueze and Lorient midfielder Innocent Bonke, are major doubts for Nigeria, while Ghana have no injury concerns.
The Super Eagles are bidding to reach a fourth consecutive World Cup, and seventh in total, while Ghana – three-time qualifiers – are looking to return to the tournament after failing to reach the 2018 finals in Russia.
CAF WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Tuesday, March 29th 2022
Nigeria Vs Ghana
Senegal Vs Egypt
Algeria Vs Cameroon
Morocco Vs DR Congo
Tunisia Vs Mali