In the opening round of fixtures of Africa’s World Cup Qualifiers, Nigeria play host to Liberia on Friday.
The visitors reached this stage by beating Sierra Leone in the first round, while Nigeria enter in the group stage and are heavily fancied to reach next year’s tournament.
After reaching the knockout stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Nigeria failed to impress in Russia three years ago, as they dropped out at the group stage after a victory and two defeats.
A year later, Gernot Rohr’s side put together an impressive campaign in the African Cup of Nations but lost 2-1 to eventual winners Algeria in the semi-final following a 95th-minute winner for their opponents, before defeating Tunisia in the playoff to seal third place.
The Super Eagles then confirmed their qualification for next year’s continental tournament with a strong showing in African Cup of Nations Qualification, with 14 points from six games as they hit 14 goals to top their group.
Following a three-game winless run in the recent round of friendlies, Rohr’s men will be keen to bounce back and start their World Cup Qualification bid in style, with their sights set on reaching the global tournament for the fourth consecutive occasion.
They take on a Liberia side who reached this stage thanks to an aggregate victory over Sierra Leone in the first round in 2019.
Peter Butler’s men got off to a strong start in that encounter, as Terrence Tisdell, Mo Sangare and Sam Johnson got on the scoresheet in a 3-1 home victory, before they narrowly saw out the two-legged win despite falling to a 1-0 defeat away from home.
Since then, Liberia have won just two of seven matches in all competitions, including a slightly disappointing run of form in African Cup of Nations Qualification, as they finished third in their four-team group with seven points from six games.
While they managed to pick up a 1-0 win over Libya in the most recent round of friendlies, that victory was followed by a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Algeria, giving their confidence a major knock.
They now go up against the odds in the qualification phase for next year’s World Cup, and will hope to start their bid with what would be an eye-catching upset.
Nigeria form (all competitions):
Liberia World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Liberia form (all competitions):
We say: Nigeria 3-0 Liberia
We see a major gulf in quality between the two squads, and expect the scoreline to reflect that on Friday, with the Super Eagles coming out as relatively clear winners.
Nigeria boast plenty of quality all over the pitch, and, just as Algeria outclassed Liberia in August, they should have more than enough to put their visitors to the sword and get off to a winning start in qualifying