By Jacob Ajom
As the national team, the Eagles take on their North Korean counterparts today in their last warm up match in Johannesburg, the question on the minds of football followers is whether coach Lars Lagerback will approach the match cautiously or go all out for an outright battle, ahead of the of the big one, The 2010 FIFA World Cup, which begins on June 11.
The Nigerian squad which arrived the former apartheid enclave Tuesday to a rousing welcome have held several training sessions with coach Lars Lagerback and his assistants at their Richardâ€™s Bay camp in Durban. The team are expected to fly into Johannesburg this morning for the friendly against the fast Koreans in the evening.
To most Nigerians, the match will offer them the final opportunity to really assess the technical and tactical capacity of the new coach who has pledged to rejig the team to greater heights, with the World Cup as the target.
The match, the third under Lagerback will, therefore, give Nigerians a glimpse of what to expect from the Eagles when hostilities resume against Argentina six days from now.
Baring the fear of injury, it is expected that Lagerback will field his strongest squad against the North Koreans whose style and standard could be equated to what obtains in South Korea, Nigeriaâ€™s group opponents.
In a confidence-building effort, the coach is likely to start his first choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama between the post. Chidi Ordiah, Rabiu Afolabi, Yobo Joseph and Taiye Taiwo will form the back four. In the midfield, Lagerback has a lot to choose from.
Except for the uncertainties surrounding the fitness level of John Obi Mikel, players like the youthful but self-asserting Haruna Lukman, Dickson Etuhu, Yusuf Ayinla, Kalu Uche and Sani Kaita can help absorb the expected pressure from the Koreans, while at the same time shoring up the Eagles attack for results .Any of them called upon will perform.
In the attack, the pair of Osaze Odemwinge and Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi will play behind Obafemi Martins as pointsman.
Former national team handler, Paul Hamilton, like most other Nigerians looks forward to todayâ€™s encounter against the Koreans with excitement. â€œI believe the coach will start his best eleven because he would want to see how the choices he has made would perform in the tournament proper,â€ Hamilton said in a chat with Sunday Vanguard Sports.
The Koreans will not be pushovers as one of their most consistent attackers, Jong TaeSe says his country are not appearing in their second FIFA World CupÂ finals in 44 years just to make up the numbers.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to leave the tournament just with experience, we want to obtain all we can get in terms of goals and points when we go home,â€ Jong told Press Association Sport, on arrival in Johannesburg, June 1.
Along with captain and Russia based striker Hong Yong-Jo, Jong will provide a key attacking weapon in what is otherwise a defensivelyminded side.