‘Battle of Freetown’: No Room For Mistakes Against Leone Stars, Eagles Vows

‘Battle of Freetown’: No Room For Mistakes Against Leone Stars, Eagles Vows

Players of the Super Eagles arrived in Freetown Monday, promising to avoid the mistakes that cost them a win against Sierra Leone in the first leg of their 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifier on Friday.

Nigeria led Sierra Leone 4-0 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium on Friday only for the Leone Stars to come back and force the Super Eagles to a 4-4 draw. The teams will meet in the reverse fixture this evening at the Siaka Stevens Stadium, Freetown. The Nigerians arrived in Freetown shortly after midday yesterday, looking determined to fix the wrongs in Benin City, which generated ‘bad blood’ on Friday.

Apart from injured Napoli of Italy star, Victor Osimhen, all other players who were in Benin City for the first leg made the trip to Freetown.

The Nigerian delegation arrived in Freetown aboard a chartered flight from Benin City, and took a 30-minute ferry ride on the Atlantic from the International Airport in Lungi to the Sierra Leonean capital.

There was hiccup at the airport as Sierra Leonean immigration officials insisted that the Nigerian players and officials must undergo COVID-19 tests, even after evidence was provided by the team that all delegation members did the tests and all returned negative just hours before boarding their flight in Benin City.

Efforts by top officials from the Nigeria High Commission and the leader of delegation, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau to make the Sierra Leonean immigration officials understand that the results obtained few hours earlier were sufficient for the delegation members to enter into Freetown, failed to sway the officials. Further pleas to allow the players and officials leave the airport and for Sierra Leone to send medical officials to conduct the tests at the hotel fell on deaf ears.

After the tests, the players and officials boarded the ferry and eventually arrived at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown just before 3pm local time (4pm in Nigeria).

Coach Gernot Rohr and his technical team led a total of 22 players and the backroom staff. The Eagles were due to have their official training at the Siaka Stevens Stadium (venue of Tuesday’s match) on Monday evening.

Some of the players, who spoke with The Guardian on arrival in Freetown, said they were determined to pay the Sierra Leoneans back in their own coins by grabbing the three points at stake.

“We have put behind the result in Benin City, and Nigerians will see a different Eagles tomorrow (today), one of the players told The Guardian in a telephone conversation. “Even before we left Nigeria in the morning, we held a small meeting among ourselves, and resolved that Leone Stars must fall.”

Another player said: “We already know that to get a victory here in Freetown might be difficult, but we are determined to win so as to erase that bad blood from the minds of our people back home.”

Today’s match will kick off at 4.00 p.m. local time (5.00 p.m. Nigeria time).

The Guardian Credited

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