Wednesday Nov 15, 2023. 14:26
Nigeria will be looking to put their first three points on the board in Group C when they kick off their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign against Lesotho at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Thursday.
Kick-off is at 6pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
Nathan Tella is in line to make his debut for the Super Eagles, with the Bayer Leverkusen winger received his maiden call-up to the national team after impressing in the Bundesliga this season with his pace and dribbling ability.
Tella, who was born in England but qualifies to play for the Super Eagles through his parents, played a starring role for Burnley last term as they won promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
The 24-year-old subsequently returned to his parent club Southampton, although he was soon on the move again after signing for Leverkusen in August.
With Victor Osimhen ruled out of the two November qualifiers through injury, Tella could get his chance to feature in attack for Jose Peseiro’s side and he’s relishing the prospect.
“It’s always been about representing Nigeria,” Tella told BBC Sport Africa. “My family will be over the moon to watch me fulfil that dream.
“I am proud of my British and Nigerian sides and lucky to have both backgrounds. Of course we have both worlds, but ours is a proper Nigerian home [with] culture, food and tradition.
“The players in the squad are talented and to compete against them in order to represent a massive nation like Nigeria is the stuff of dreams.”
The West African giants are unbeaten in their last five matches and they will look to use the upcoming games against the Crocodiles and Zimbabwe as preparation for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria finally arrested a 16-match winless run in friendlies when they beat Mozambique 3-2 in Albufeira on October 16, having played out to a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia in Portimao three days earlier.
Lesotho failed to qualify for the continental tournament in Ivory Coast next year after finishing bottom of Group H in qualifying.
The Southern Africans failed to win a single game, although they went on to reach the 2023 COSAFA Cup final before being beaten 1-0 by Zambia.
Leslie Notsi’s side have a tough task ahead of them to qualify for the global showpiece in Canada, Mexico and the United States, with South Africa, Rwanda, Benin and Zimbabwe also contesting Group C.