Big Match Feature: Nigeria Vs Greece
Nigeria's preparation for the Brazil 2014 Fifa World Cup will step up a notch when the Super Eagles take on the Greek national team in an international friendly in Pennsylvania, United States on June 3.
By the time the match kicks off at at the PPL Park in Chester, coach Stephen Keshi would have pruned down his 30-man squad to the final 23 that will wear Nigeria's colours at the prestigious tournament
THE LAST ENCOUNTER
It is expected that Keshi will use this game to test the core of his squad after reliables like John Obi Mikel, Vincent Enyeama and Kenneth Omeruo were left out of the 2-2 draw with Scotland at Craven Cottage last week.
Like the proverbial shepherd tending his flock, Keshi will look to lead his charges into the game to see how far the team have come and what he needs to do in time for Nigeria's opening Group F fixture against Iran on June 16.
Greece are certainly no pushovers and they have continued in the same manner that saw them conquer Europe at Portugal 2004 where they stunned the world by adopting a ultra defensive formation principled by German coach, Otto Renhagel.
Coach Fernando Santos will look to polish his wards as they also get set for the World Cup where they will face Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C.
The June 3 meeting with Greece will be the fourth time the Super Eagles will engage the Greek national team at senior level.
Nigeria edged Greece 2-0 in 1994 at the Foxboro Stadium in the US in her maiden World Cup appearance. Goals from now assistant coach, Daniel Amokachi, and Finidi George gave Nigeria victory on the day.
Greece beat Nigeria 2-0 in a friendly international in November 1999 in Kilkis with Nikos Machlas scoring both goals.
The last time the two teams met, Nigeria lost 2-1 to the Greeks at the Fifa World Cup in South Africa, where a certain Sani Kaita got sent off as Greece rallied back from a goal down to beat Nigeria.
Nigeria played out a gritty 2-2 draw with Scotland and Fulham's Craven Cottage where the Super Eagles had to come twice from behind to claim a late draw.
Keshi started the game with a second string side and must have seen enough for him to decipher what needs to be done to make his players as cohesive as he would want them to be.
Goals from Michael Uchebo and Uche Nwofor late on salvaged a draw for the Super Eagles. The team were brilliant in patches and Keshi will surely want a wholesome consistent game from his players when they play Greece.
Santos' wards played out a goalless draw with Portugal last Sunday in an international friendly in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Greece did not create enough to trouble the Portuguese who rested Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid defender Pepe.
Santos went with a lone striker upfront as Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou struggled to get into the game and made minimal impact. Surely the Portuguese coach will look to re-invigorate his team to be more offensive in the game against Nigeria.
Greece could be without defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos who suffered a biceps injury during the Portugal game and remains sidelined for several days.
Captain Giorgios Karagounis might start the game against Nigeria after coming on as a substitute against Portugal and providing some spark in midfield.
Nwofor sat out Nigeria's training session on Sunday but looks to be okay now and will continue training with the main squad.
Keshi might string in some of his regular players after he left out a bevy of his regular starters against Scotland.
Leader of the pack, captain of the team and with 132 caps, one of the most experienced internationals heading to the 2014 World Cup.
A workaholic midfielder who plays his trade in England with Fulham, he is the bridge between the old 2004 Euro winning team and the new generation. Very good at set pieces and can score from long range shots.
The Borussia Dortmund defender is a doubt for this game but is the crown prince of Greek football, a honour usually reserved for midfielders or strikers.
The powerfully built 25-year-old is the main man in defence for Santos, and Greek fans will hope he overcomes his injury worries as he looks to shut out Super Eagles strikers.
The Fulham forward did not exactly light up the Premiership after his £11 million move from Olympiakos last summer.
However, Santos has kept faith with the German-born Greek striker, and will rely on him to cause damage against Nigeria.
Vice captain of the Super Eagles and first choice goalkeeper since Keshi took over in late 2011.
A good shot-stopper. The 31-year-old has been class for his French Ligue 1 side, Lille Metropole, as they clinched a Uefa Champions League slot and was duly voted the African Footballer of the Year in France.
Diminutive yet combative midfielder, who plies his trade in Italy with SS Lazio, was influential in midfield as Nigeria clinched the Africa Cup of Nations last year. One of the first names on Keshi's team list.
The Chelsea winger did not have a good season on loan at Liverpool but on his day can create havoc for any team with his pace and trickery.
Moses will hope to do well at the World Cup to kick-start his career and the Greece game is surely another opportunity to stake a claim for a starting berth in Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis, Panagiotis Glykos, Stefanos Kapino
Defenders: Vassilis Torosidis, Loukas Vyntra, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Kostas Manolas, Vangelis Moras, Jose Holebas, Georgios Tzavellas, Giannis Maniatis
Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis, Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis, Andreas Samaris , Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Panagiotis Kone (Bologna, Italy), Giannis Fetfatzidis, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos
Attackers: Georgios Samaras, Kostas Mitroglou, Fanis Gekas, Dimitris Salpingidis
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Chigozie Agbim, Daniel Akpeyi
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa, Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kenneth Omeruo, Joseph Yobo, Kunle Odunlami
Midfielders: John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi, Ramon Azeez, Ejike Uzoenyi, Sunday Mba, Gabriel Reuben, Nosa Igiebor, Joel Obi, Babatunde Michael
Strikers: Ahmed Musa, Shola Ameobi, Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Nsofor, Peter Odemwingie , Uche Nwofor, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Michael Uchebo