In another few hours, the Super Eagles will take to the field to trade tackles with the Yellow Men in an international friendly match slated for the Dnipro Arena.
It is Nigeria’s first competitive game since the duo of John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo announced their retirement from the national team. At least five more key Nigerian players have withdrawn from the matchup against the world’s 25th best footballing nation. Ahmed Musa, Wilfred Ndidi, Henry Onyekuru, will all miss the game.
But head coach Gernot Rohr has called on capable replacements who can do the nation proud when the square up against a team yet to taste defeat this year.
we bring under the spotlight the six players who can make a difference for either side.
The Lille forward is the hottest Nigeria striker in town and the absence of Ighalo, he is expected to start as the team’s striker ahead of Kelechi Iheanacho who isn’t enjoying the best of times at Leicester City. Osimhen has not yet scored for the Super Eagles but it is only a matter of time before the youngster gets off the mark.
Four goals in his last four games for his French club means Ukraine is in for a long watch to keep the former Wolfsburg striker quiet.
The West Ham United winger is one of the most celebrated players in Ukraine and 36 goals in just 81 appearances for his country bear testament to the danger the former Dynamo Kyiv forward poses any day.
The Nigeria defence will have their work cut out when faxing the four-time Ukrainian Footballer of the Year award winner.
Yarmolenko is tricky, has a nose for a fight and an eye for goals. If he has a good day, it might be that the Nigeria goalkeeper and defenders would have a bad day.
Big Joe is one of five players joining the Super Eagles for the first time and it would be a moment to treasure for a long time if the former Charlton Athletic midfielder makes his debut from the start.
In the absence of Ndidi, Aribo is in a straight fight with PAOK’s Anderson Esiti for that third midfield slot beside Oghenekaro Etebo and Alex Iwobi.
The Glasgow Rangers hotshot should, however, get the nod as his ability to drive with the ball and get up the pitch to support the attackers will be key to unsettling the Yellow Men.
His fourteen goals in 81 caps for Charlton and the four he has already registered for Rangers reveal that he knows where the goalpost is and how to get the better of the opponent’s goal custodian.
At just 22, Zinchenko has won two Premier League titles and the FA Cup. It certainly helps to play for the best club in England, Manchester City, but the youngster’s talent and versatility have med him indispensable to Pep Guardiola.
A versatile midfielder, Zinchenko can operate in many positions in the left-wing, such as a wing-back or a full-back.
He will look to keep any of Awaziem or Ola Aina busy down that right flank, in a mini-battle that should be thrilling to watch.
The former Arsenal forward joined Everton in the summer in a big-money move and has already begun to pay back the trust the club showed in him.
Two goals in his last two games show that the attacking midfielder is finally adding the end product to his game.
His records with the national team read 6 goals in over 30 matches and Iwobi needs no seer to tell him that must improve. On the back of his recent displays for his new club, Iwobi might be too hot to handle for Andriy Shevchenko’s men.
Marlos Romero Bonfim
It’s not often you see a Brazilian abandoning the gold colours of the Selecao for the ordinary Yellow of Ukraine but Marlos is breaking barriers and shattering ceilings.
Not the tallest of players but certainly one of the finest dribblers in this Ukrainian team.
Since making his debut for the Yellow Men two years ago, the 31-year-old has been unlucky in front of goals, failing to find the back of the net despite blasting 42 goals in 122 league outings for Shakhtar Donetsk.
However, mother luck finally smirked at him when he scored a beauty in Ukraine 3-0 triumph away to Lithuania in their last match. He will hope for more of the same versus Nigeria.
William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun, our Oyibo Wall, would need to be alert every single minute of the 90 or the three-time Ukrainian Premier League Player of the Year would punish any of their errors.
This is the big break this youngster has been waiting for his whole life and now that he has made the big step up to the big time, he will have the chance to impress against Ukraine.
It is foolhardy to expect too much and pile unnecessary pressure on players making their maiden bow for their beloved country but Maduka doesn’t look like one to crack under pressure.
The young goaltender will certainly be tested against a team that has scored 11 goals in their last 4 matches but if he can rise to the occasion, cut out errors, keep things simple and communicate well with his defence, he would not just have silenced his critics but would have cemented his place in the hearts of soccer-crazy fans all over Nigeria.