As we get set for the all-important Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Cameroon on Friday at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, our Chief Football Writer FISAYO DAIRO spent some time with Super Eagles and Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel midfielder, John Ogu Ugochukwu.
During the exhilarating session, the extremely confident midfielder spoke on all issues concerning the game including Cameroon’s rivalry with Nigeria, something he is unruffled about.
Ogu, 28, who at 1.92m tall is one that is not expected to be fazed by tall oppositions was also not bothered about the sizes of the Cameroonians.
Something germane in the session with Ogu was the awareness of the importance which Friday’s game carries not only to the team, but to Nigeria and Nigerians.
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On the rivalry
“The players are all aware that Cameroon is our big rivals but we’re not playing against them to revenge our AFCON final losses, we’re just coming out tomorrow (Friday) to get the three points because we’re playing at home, we’re playing in front of our fans.”
“For us it is a big game and it is a game we want to win so as to be in next year’s World Cup. I believe everyone is going to give their 100%,” Ogu said with a very assured smile.
On Cameroonian Physique
Cameroon coach Hugo Broos called up 23 players for Friday’s game which included a fair collection of towering stars, a development that left growing fears in the minds of football fans in Nigeria but Ogu is not perturbed.
“No. I don’t think so,” Ogu responded when asked if the players will be intimidated by the Cameroonians’ big frames on match day.
“We as professional football players play against players of different sizes but football is a team game so you just have to come out and give your best as a team. Coming out tomorrow, we have to forget about the size and give our 100% and play aggressive from the start to the end.”
On Cameroon’s fate
Reigning African champions Cameroon are currently four points behind Nigeria and badly require a win in at least one of the two upcoming matches on Friday and Monday to remain in contention for a berth in Russia next summer.
Ugochukwu is not oblivious of the situation but remains confident Nigeria have a team to condemn the Central African nation to more disappointment.
“Definitely they will come out here, wanting to win, they will want to attack us but we’ve got experience in our team and everyone is playing top football in our clubs.
“We’re all aware that we can’t get carried away because everyone could still remember what happened against South Africa in the last game played here in Uyo. We are all excited and relaxed for it and ready to fight because I believe if we fight, we will get the 3 points.”
Message to Nigerians
Nigeria have enjoyed both successes and disappointments at Friday’s venue for the match against Cameroon. The team have twice failed to beat South Africa in AFCON qualification matches but enjoyed two important victories at the start of Gernot Rohr’s reign last year.
As optimistic as football fans in the country can be, they still hold the trepidation of a bad result happening somewhere in the corner of their hearts. Ogu however rallied for a message of support for the team while they leave the rest to the players.
“The expectation is high no doubt, everyone is looking forward to the game. I just want them (the fans) to come out and be positive about Friday’s game and come out to support and pray for us. We believe without them, we cannot make it happen
“They should just come out and believe in us and trust us to give our 100% to make them happy.”
Nigeria’s Group B clash with Cameroon holds in Uyo on Friday at 5PM WAT with Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha in charge of proceedings.