Home based Super Eagles defender Emmanuel Ariwachukwu has expressed his readiness to feature in Saturday’s CHAN 2018 second leg qualifier between Nigeria and Benin Republic if called upon by the team’s handlers.
Ariwachukwu was an unused substitute in the first leg encounter at the Stade Mathieu Kerekou in Cotonou on Sunday as Nigeria’s coach Salisu Yusuf preferred Rangers experienced defender Kalu Orji Okogbue and Ifeanyiubah’s towering star Stephen Eze to Ariwa as the Eagles went down 1-0 to the Squirrels.
Okogbue however received a second yellow card at the end of the match after his protestations to the match officials. The suspension of the former Heartland star means Salisu Yusuf must find a replacement to partner Eze. Plateau United captain, Elisha Golbe has been recalled after he was initially dropped from the squad that went to Benin but Ariwachukwu remains the favourite to start in that position.
“By God’s grace, I’m 100%ready to fill his (Okogbue’s) absence if given the chance because I will like to prove that my coming here is not a fluke,” Ariwa told ACLSports from the team’s Hotel base in Kano.
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The Akwa United centre back, like many of the team’s players was shocked at their loss to the Beninoise on Sunday and he spoke about the players’ resolve to play “the game of our lives” when both teams meet again at 4pm (WAT) on Saturday.
“It’s so painful that we lost that game. Even in my wildest dream, I won’t imagine that we lost that game.
“To be honest with you, everyone of us is ready to play the game of our lives tomorrow (Saturday). We agreed to give a good account of ourselves and make our dear country proud by God’s grace. We want to win and win well,” he added.
Ariwa has started 26 times for his Nigeria Professional Football League side Akwa United this season and he believes he, like other members of the squad are prepared physically and mentally for the decider.
“It is a must win game. The coaches are simply wonderful and amazing as they have done a lot for us. We are well equipped physically and mentally for the game so we are looking forward to giving that massive crowd tomorrow a big smile to go home with.”
Saturday’s game holds at the 25,000 capacity Sani Abacha Stadium in the commercial city of Kano, northern Nigeria. Kano is a place not only known for commerce but also for its people’s love for their football. Ariwachukwu shares his experience in the past four weeks with ACLSports.
“Kano is a good place with lovely people. I can guarantee you that fans will come out en masse to support us because they did so when we played a friendly with their team on Wednesday.
“I trust Kano people in that aspect and that’s the more reason why we must win to make them happy.”