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Late arrival disrupts Super Eagles preparation

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Super Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi says the team hasn’t been able to make the best use of their training camp in Uyo ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic, no thanks to the late arrival of some members of the 23-man squad.

The Super Eagles camp opened in Uyo last Friday but only 22 players were in camp as of Wednesday afternoon, with Udinese goalkeeper Maduka Okoye still expected to complete the squad.

Atalanta’s Europa League hero Ademola Lookman and Alex Iwobi also arrived at the team’s hotel on Wednesday.

Five other players; Semi Ajayi, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Calvin Bassey, midfielder Frank Onyeka and forward Paul Onuachu landed in Uyo in a private jet on Tuesday after their proposed arrival on Monday was botched by the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress, which crippled flight operations.

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Ndidi, who had arrived camp last Friday alongside 15 other players, reflected on how the depleted squad have fared.

“To be honest, it has affected the preparations because normally we were supposed to start training on Saturday and we have not been together. I think it has affected the team in some ways, like we’re supposed to know what we are doing and how to approach the game, but we haven’t been able to do that. But I think they as they come in as well, they will be great additions still and we will take it up from there,” Ndidi told NFF TV.

Although the Leicester midfielder missed the 2023 AFCON due to injury, he also said the Eagles cannot afford to drop the standard of their second-place finish in Ivory Coast as they face South Africa on Friday and Benin Republic next Monday.

Read Also: Full house Super Eagles in desperate bid to destroy South Africa

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“The way we performed at the AFCON has actually raised some standards and the expectation is high. I think we have the same players and the same coach who was part of the team and we will do our best because we know these games are important.

“First of all, we have to focus on South Africa, whatever happens gives us confidence going into the second one.”

At the 2023 AFCON, Nigeria beat the South Africans 4-2 on penalties in the semi-finals after 120 minutes of football ended 1-1, a result Ndidi feels will still be fresh in the minds of their opponents.

“It makes it more difficult because looking back to what we did at the AFCON it’s not going to be an easy game because, when they look back to the AFCON semi-finals, they will come for revenge and we are expecting that.”

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The Eagles are third in the 2026 World Cup qualifying group with two points from two matches and need to win both games to get their campaign back on track.

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