World Cup Build-Up: Eagles Beat Poland in Wroclaw

The Super Eagles began their Russia 2018 World Cup preparations on a bright note with a 1-0 win over Poland on Friday night at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw.

Chelsea winger Victor Moses converted from the spot to give Gernot Rohr’s side the win under wintery conditions in the largest city in western Poland.

The Eagles will play Serbia, who lost 2-1 to Morocco, in their next match on Tuesday.

Going into Friday’s game, the Polish side were the clear favourites after climbing one place to sixth in the latest FIFA ranking with the Nigerians 46 places behind the Europeans.

But it was the three-time African champions, who had recorded a historic 4-2 win over Argentina in another friendly in Krasnodar last November, that continued their winning streak ahead of their trip to Russia.

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In the absence of captain Obi Mikel, who was held back in China by his work permit renewal, Rohr handed the captain’s armband to William Troost-Ekong.

Deportivo La Coruna teenage goalkeeper Francis Uzoho started in goal while Leon Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Brian Idowu and Abdullahi Shehu were in defence.

Eagles returnee Joel Obi started in midfield along with Leicester City duo Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho while Alex Iwobi, Moses and Odion Ighalo were in the attack.

Nigeria started the stronger side as they went in search of an early goal but the Polish defenders kept the Eagles attackers at bay.

The Eagles first chance came in the third minute when Iwobi found Moses outside the 18-yard box but the Chelsea winger’s cross went wide of goal.

In the eighth minute, Poland got their first chance as a cross found Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who poked the ball beyond Uzoho, but his effort hit the upright and was cleared by the Eagles defenders.

The Eagles kept the momentum but failed to create clear cut opportunities to beat Poland’s defenders. In the 15th minute, Nigeria’s first free-kick of the game failed to threaten Lukasz Fabianski in goal for Poland.

Poland applied a physical approach in the first period of the game, which proved difficult for the Eagles, who struggled find a rhythm. However, in the 44th minute, a goalkeeping error from Uzoho almost gifted the Polish a goal but Balogun cleared the ball off the line.

Poland started the second half on a brighter note and threatened more. Uzoho was forced into a save in the 46th minute as he dove to his left to claim a shot from Lewandowski.

However, Nigeria went ahead in the 61st minute after Moses was brought down in the penalty area, as he tried to weave past the Polish defence.

The 27-year-old dusted himself up before converting the resultant spot kick as he sent substitute goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski the wrong way with cheeky effort.

Thereafter, Uzoho became the busier of the two keepers as Poland came all out in search of an equaliser. But the Eagles defence managed to hold on.

The Nigerians had a great opportunity to increase their lead in added time off a counter-attack move, when substitute Ogenyi Onazi, who replaced Obi, found Ahmed Musa in the box but the CSKA Moscow winger failed to connect with the pass.

Meanwhile, Turkey-based Mikel Agu has reportedly been handed a late call-up as a replacement for Mikel Obi, according to scorenigeria.com.ng.

“Mikel Agu has got a late call-up,” Eagles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye was quoted as saying on Friday.

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