Today the Super Eagles will begin another march for World Cup glory and cash when they welcome Lesotho to Uyo, before they fly out to Rwanda for another 2026 World Cup qualifier three days later.
With due respect to both Lesotho and Zimbabwe, the decent target for the three-time African champions will be to win these two games and secure the maximum six points.
Such record will not only boost team confidence and assure the public that the Super Eagles mean serious business after the anguish of not qualifying for the last World Cup in Qatar.
It will also be a mission statement to the other teams in this qualifying section particularly Bafana Bafana of South Africa, who by many indicators will be the main threat to Nigeria’s ambition to be part of the 2026 World Cup.
It is almost a year since Qatar 2022 served the world a sumptuous feast of football without Nigeria no thanks to the shock arch-rivals Ghana dealt the Super Eagles in Abuja in March 2022.
Public confidence in the Super Eagles has gradually returned after they qualified for the 2023 AFCON despite the stumble against Guinea Bissau in Abuja.
The NFF have since launched #Letsdoitagain for the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire, where they are drawn against the host nation and yes, Guinea Bissau again.
The World Cup qualifiers against Southern African teams Lesotho and Zimbabwe will now test the veracity of the target to be African champions again 10 years after Stephen Keshi’s crowning glory in South Africa.
Coach Jose Peseiro will be without several key players like star striker Victor Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi and Samuel Chukwueze, but he has worthy replacements to get his team across the line.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Victor Boniface showed he is born for the big stage with his heroics and awards in the Bundesliga and last month he was very much at home in friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique.
His Leverkusen teammate Nathan Tella will bring extra excitement on the wings on his first call-up by the national team.
Peseiro has overlooked Antwerp midfielder Alhassan Yusuf and striker Jerome Akor from Ligue 1 club Montpellier despite their current form.
The likes of Sadiq Umar and Joe Aribo will have to justify their selections.
The World Cup qualifiers will also afford goalkeeper Francis Uzoho the chance to redeem himself after a poor display in the friendlies in Portugal last month.
He is obviously the Eagles No 1, just as he was at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but he now has to get the fans to his corner by avoiding the catastrophic errors that have tarnished his international career.
The Eagles having to play two matches across Africa in less than a week will task the organizational capacity of the NFF, who have time after time been caught napping in this regard.
Certainly, the spotlight will fall on the Super Eagles in the next four months with the World Cup qualifiers, preparations for the AFCON and the AFCON itself.
It is now for the Super Eagles, coach Peseiro and the NFF to prove they are up to the challenge amid many doubts.