I have fond memories of our game against England at Wembley Stadium in 1994. We had a short time to prepare but I think we put in a very splendid performance. I came on for Daniel Amokachie and everybody did their best on the day. We lost narrowly 1-0 but I don’t think the result tells half of the performance we put on show that day.
Anyway, back to the present and today’s game against them at the Wembley stadium, I think it will be a cracking game of football. It will be a friendly match but there will be a lot riding on this game. Pride is at stake on both sides. The England team is very good at home in Wembley and the Super Eagles are a very difficult team to break down also.
I expect England to attack us from the blast of the whistle with their twin strikers of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Both players complement each other. While Vardy is fast and depends on his speed, Kane is more skilful with an eye for scoring beautiful balls. Both are dangerous in the 18-yard box and will punish any mistake without mercy.
In the middle, they have Jordan Henderson who works very hard and Eric Dier and Dele Alli who are also very skillfull and attack-minded. All these players point in the direct of an attacking gameplan except if the manager Gareth Southgate is not willing to play to the strength of his team which I seriously doubt.
For the Super Eagles, Kelechi Iheanacho turned in some superlative showings towards the end of the season which means he is in good form so I expect him to start with Odion Ighalo. However, we can win the game from the midfield with captain Mikel Obi’s influence and experience. We need to be able to absorb all they will throw at us then launch quick counter-attacks when they are left exposed.
In goal, I’m trusting coach Gernot Rohr’s judgement on who he wants to start among the goalkeepers but since Francis Uzoho has impressed and continues to improve, I think we should stick by him. That will build his confidence going into the World Cup.
I’m not going to read much into the performance or result against Congo DR in last Monday’s friendly. However, the Super Eagles must put up a credible performance against England so that fans’ morale will be high going into the World Cup.
The outcome of the game will likely turn on a moment of magic or error. I hope it turns nicely for Nigeria but sincerely I see an England win by 1-0 or 2-1.
—Victor Ikpeba, former African Footballer of the Year, is currently a member of the NFF’s Technical Committee