Although international friendlies are widely seen as irrelevant and pointless, the upcoming match between Scotland and Nigeria at Craven Cottage carry great significance for two reasons.
The former will utilise the game as preparation towards their 2016 European Championship qualification campaign which begins on September 7th, away to Germany. While the latter are preparing for the 2014 World Cup with three friendlies arranged to provide Stephen Keshi with a chance to assess his squad.
Scotland will look to continue their promising start under Gordon Strachan who took over the job from the sacked Craig Levein, when their chances of reaching Brazil 2014 were dead in the water. But three victories in four games, including beating Croatia home and away, has restored faith in the national side’s future.
Although the Tartan Army will not be taking their passionate support and spirit to Brazil this summer, they will no doubt watch the drama of the World Cup unfold on television and keep tabs with the latest World Cup news stories.
The friendly on May 27th against Nigeria is Scotland’s only international match to date before they travel to Germany in September to begin their qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 in Group D. It is therefore imperative that Scotland take the game seriously in order to continue their progression under Gordon Strachan, and prepare themselves for a group that they could qualify from. Nigeria will provide a good test, with a side packed with strength and pace set to face Scotland in North London. Although Scotland will take the game seriously, it has provided Strachan with the opportunity to experiment with players who could make a real difference for Scotland going forward. Derby duo Craig Forsyth and Chris Martin, along with Mark Reynolds and Peter Pawlett from Aberdeen could be set to win their first international cap after being called up into the 26-man squad to face the Super Eagles.
The Super Eagles will begin preparations for the fifth World Cup campaign in their history against Scotland in the first of three build-up games before their Group F opener against Iran on June 16th. Nigeria may not be the force they once were during the 1990s, but the African nation will fancy their chances of qualifying from a group which also contains Bosnia and Argentina. Facing an in-form Scotland side will be a good test for Stephen Keshi’s side and provides a wonderful opportunity for every player called up to their 30-man provisional squad to stake their claim for a place on the plane to Brazil. Nigeria’s squad is packed with a nice mixture of youth and experience, with Ahmed Musa and Ogenyi Onazi players to keep an eye on at the World Cup. They are 250/1 rank outsiders to go beyond all expectations and win Brazil 2014, but there is enough promise and quality in their side that will not only give Scotland a good game, but also be a dangerous side for any World Cup opponent.
Goalkeepers: Cammy Bell (Rangers), Matt Gilks (Blackpool), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Hull City).
Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town), Craig Forsyth (Derby County), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Steven Whittaker (Norwich City)
Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Watford), Barry Bannan (Crystal Palace), George Boyd (Hull City), Scott Brown (Celtic), Craig Bryson (Derby County), Chris Burke (Birmingham City), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen).
Forwards: Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), Chris Martin (Derby County), Ross McCormack (Leeds United), Steven Naismith (Everton).
Nigeria provisional World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Daniel Akpeyi (Warri Wolves), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United).
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod), Joseph Yobo (Norwich, on loan from Fenerbahce), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars).
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Joel Obi (Parma), Nnamdi Oduamadi (Varese), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers), Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis), Sunday Mba (Bastia), Reuben Gabriel (Waasland-Beveren), Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk).
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce); Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Victor Moses (Liverpool, on loan from Chelsea), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen).