September 4, 2017

Nigeria inspired by Ikeme to qualify for Russia

Carl Ikeme

Nigeria face Cameroon in a World Cup qualifier on Monday, with their coach saying they are inspired to qualify for Russia 2018 by goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who is battling acute leukaemia.

Carl Ikeme

Nigeria can become the first African qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia if they triumph in Yaounde and Zambia do not win in Algeria 24 hours later.

With three Group B matches to go, the Super Eagles have a maximum nine points – five ahead of Zambia, with Cameroon a further two points back and Algeria bottom on one point.

“We pledged to win this match for Carl,” said the Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr, after their impressive 4-0 win over African champions Cameroon in their home leg in Uyo on Friday.

Ikeme has been having treatment, including chemotherapy, since he was diagnosed in July.

“He is in my thoughts and those of the coaches, players and officials all the time. I believe he will inspire us in Cameroon,” Rohr added.

Rohr hopes his senior players Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel – who both scored on Friday – can replicate the form they showed against the Indomitable Lions in Uyo.

“Mikel is our leader and demonstrated that against Cameroon,” said Rohr about the former Chelsea star who now plays for Tianjin TEDA in China.

“I was pleasantly surprised because he has played very little football for about six months. His efforts meant a lot to the team.”

Rohr has also been boosted by the news that Nigeria have received clearance from FIFA for Chelsea defender Ola Aina to make his international debut against Cameroon.

Aina, who is on a season-long loan at English Championship side Hull City, was born in London to Nigerian parents.

Although he has a Nigerian passport, he has represented England at various junior levels and so needed to apply to change his international allegiance.

Rohr had hoped to use Aina in Friday’s clash against Cameroon but the FIFA clearance did not arrive in time.