Super Eagles stars, especially those who have Premier League experience, are eagerly looking forward to Saturday’s friendly against England at Wembley.
England, who hosted and won the FIFA World Cup in 1966, but have only gone as far as the semi-finals since then, have met with Nigeria twice in the past, winning one and drawing the other.
As hosts, the Three Lions defeated the Super Eagles 1-0 in a friendly in 1994, but the two teams played out a 0-0 draw at the World Cup in 2002.
Both teams are heading to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Nigeria must negotiate the obstacles offered by two-time world champions and reigning world vice champions Argentina, hard-as-nails eastern Europeans Croatia and an Iceland squad that stunned England and world football in the Round of 16 at the 2016 European Championship in France. England must sort matters out with strong African opponents Senegal, Japan and Panama.
“The most important thing about the World Cup is not the money. But I must admit that the fact that the money is there and we know is there gives us extra energy, extra motivation in the preparations,” Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho told thenff.com.
Defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielders Ogenyi Onazi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi and forward Odion Ighalo also admitted this much in separate interviews with thenff.com.
On Thursday night, at a brief event at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Senate President Bukola Saraki gave the squad a cash gift of $50,000, and with a pledge of ‘special package’ for every unreplied goal at the World Cup finals in Russia.
On Friday morning, the contingent met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal Council Chambers.
The delegation was flown to London aboard a luxury jet, and will train for the big match at the Wembley on Friday, between 5pm-6pm.
Skipper Mikel Obi told thenff.com: “We are in England, a terrain most of us know too well. I was here and won several trophies with Chelsea, including the Champions League. It will be an interesting encounter on Saturday.”
Several players in the Nigeria squad are familiar with English football.
Victor Moses recently won the FA Cup with Chelsea FC, the club where Mikel achieved great things; Wilfred Ndidi is a star at Leicester City where he won the Young Player of the Year for the second successive season; Iheanacho is also at Leicester City; Alex Iwobi is with Arsenal FC; Olal Aina is with Hull City; Ahmed Musa only recently left Leicester City; Odion Ighalo was a star at Watford FC before leaving for China last year and; Kenneth Omeruo is officially with Chelsea even though he has been on loan in Turkey.
Iheanacho said simply: “England’s players know us and we know them. It will be a good match.”