Though World Cup fever won’t be gripping the Scots this year, Nigeria enter their match with Scotland on Wednesday night looking to build momentum ahead of their quest for glory in Brazil.
Stephen Keshi’s side have been drawn alongside Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran in World Cup 2014’s Group F and face a realistic chance of progressing to the knockout stage.
Scotland, meanwhile, are hoping to continue their impressive form with their Euro 2016 qualification campaign just around the corner.
Venue: Craven Cottage, London
Date: Wednesday, May 28
Time: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC Scotland (UK only)
Scotland Improving Under Strachan
When Gordon Strachan took the reins at Scotland with a World Cup 2014 qualification revival mission on his hands, few predicted just how big an impact he’d have with the Tartan Army.
Though he failed to guide the Scots to their first major tournament since World Cup 1998, he’s laid positive foundations from which the nation can grow and really challenge for qualification for Euro 2016.
The 57-year-old has masterminded six victories from his 11 games in charge, with one draw against the USA to boot.
Despite recording four defeats, three of them have come against the highly rated opposition of Serbia, England and Belgium.
So, then, he’ll be full of confidence when Scotland showdown with the Nigerians in London; likewise will Ipswich Town defender Christophe Berra, who insisted that the Tartan Army are full of optimism—per the Daily Record:
The mindset is great just now and so many good results in friendlies has helped. But in the end it’ll all come down to the qualifiers. There’s no point in performing like we have in all these friendlies then not doing it in the games that actually matter. We need to carry our confidence into a game where there are three points at stake. Then we can say to ourselves that we've improved and that we’re entitled to our optimism. You look at the squad Nigeria are taking to the World Cup and they've got players at some big clubs across Europe.
Scotland kick off their Euro 2016 qualification with the daunting task of a trip to Dortmund to face Germany, making Wednesday’s clash with Nigeria imperative in terms of gathering momentum.
For Nigeria, it’s just as important, with their trip to Brazil a matter of weeks away, and their opening match against Iran a must-win encounter.
With the likes of John Obi Mikel, Efe Ambrose and Victor Moses in the squad, the Super Eagles have a wealth of talent at their disposal that they’ll be unleashing on the Scottish at Craven Cottage.
This summer’s tournament will mark Nigeria’s fifth World Cup campaign, and manager Stephen Keshi says that his side have what it takes to go all the way—as reported by allAfrica:
“We can win. Those who win do not have two heads. Everything we need to go further, it is the concentration, avoid injury and take the games one after another.”
Though Keshi’s dreams may be a little far-fetched, finding a way to victory over the improving Scots will give them confidence of making a big impact in Brazil.
Key Stats and Prediction
Scotland are unbeaten in their last five internationals, winning four and drawing one.
During that spell, the Tartan Army have conceded just one goal, and none in their last four outings.
Nigeria and Scotland have met just once in their respective histories—per WhoScored.com—back in 2002, where the Super Eagles recorded a 2-1 victory thanks to a brace from Julius Aghahowa.
Nigeria are on an unbeaten run of their own, going six matches without tasting defeat in 90 minutes.
The Super Eagles’ last match at Craven Cottage came in November 2013, where they performed admirably to hold Italy to a 2-2 draw.
While both sides will be experimenting with formations and players, the Scottish just about have the edge in terms of personnel.
If they can find a way to let their key players influence the game, then their heart and desire will take them over the line.
Prediction: Scotland 2-1 Nigeria