Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong believes two friendlies against World Cup-bound sides Mexico and Ecuador in the United States will help in their rebuilding process.
The Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup after being eliminated by fierce West African rivals Ghana sparked stadium unrest and led to the ousting of the coaching crew led by Augustine Eguavoen.
The under-fire Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has quickly arranged for the team to face Mexico and Ecuador in friendlies on 28 May in Texas and 2 June in New Jersey respectively.
“It’s good to have these two fantastic friendlies. Obviously, we are still recovering from missing out on the World Cup,” Watford’s Troost-Ekong told BBC Sport Africa.
“It’s good to play against two top football countries because they are the kind of oppositions we would’ve liked to play in preparation for Qatar.
“Anyway, we still have a chance to gain that experience. We are looking forward to it and we are happy to play these quality friendly games and looking forward to starting a new campaign to truly put the World Cup behind us as the Nations Cup is our only focus for now.”
Three-time continental champions Nigeria face some soul-searching after a difficult 2022 so far, which saw them exit the Africa Cup of Nations in the last 16 and then miss out on a spot at the World Cup on the away goals rule following a 1-1 draw with Ghana last month.
The NFF has begun the search for Eguavoen’s successor, with the controversial announcement of Salisu Yusuf as first assistant coach alongside former internationals Finidi George and Ike Shorunmu (goalkeeper trainer) to the incoming coach.
Former Porto and Sporting CP boss Jose Peseiro, who had previously rejected an approach from the West African nation, is strongly linked with the vacant post ahead of the upcoming 2023 Nations Cup qualifiers.
Troost-Ekong is looking forward to working with whoever takes charge of the faltering side ahead of the two matches in the USA.
“With the new coach coming in it will be a chance for him to see some new faces and use it to rebuild for the team before our all-important Nations Cup qualifiers,” the 28-year-old defender added.
“A lot has happened on the back of our World Cup disappointment and the chance to get preparatory matches will help in our quest to reach the next Afcon tournament, which is going to be the main focus of our next international break.”
Nigeria’s game against Mexico will be the eighth encounter between the two nations at senior level, four of which have ended in draws.
Three wins have gone to Mexico, when they triumphed in the third-place playoff at the 1995 King Fahd Cup (now Fifa Confederations Cup), 2-1 victory in a US Gold Cup encounter in Texas the same year and a 4-0 win over a domestic-based Super Eagles side in July 2021.
South American side Ecuador, who have been paired with African champions Senegal in the Group A of the 2022 World Cup, see Nigeria as the right opposition to prepare them for what to expect from the Teranga Lions in Qatar.