International Friendly: Nigeria vs Serbia – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Nigeria and Serbia meet in North London on Tuesday night as both teams look to gain momentum as the World Cup preparations continue
20:00 GMT, Tuesday 27th March, The Hive Stadium (London, England)
Two of the World Cup outsiders bring their tournament preparations to North London as Nigeria and Serbia clash, with Serbia looking to regain some pride after losing to Morocco last week.
Nigeria will be looking to build on the shock victory over Poland, which will be a huge confidence boost for the Super Eagles.
With Nigeria facing Croatia in Group D of the World Cup in Russia, there is a sort of logic behind this fixture. Whether or not it makes any meaningful difference remains to be seen but, either way, this will offer both sides a good test going into the summer.
Last Time Out
Serbia 1-2 Morocco (International Friendly)
Serbia will be disappointed after they failed to get a result in a tense match with Morocco. The home side, who had only lost once in their previous ten games before the fall to Morocco, will need to see a vast improvement before June as they have one of the tougher groups, consisting of Costa Rica, Switzerland and most worryingly, Brazil.
Serbia fell behind in the 27th minute after Dusan Basta was alleged to have fouled Nordin Amrabat in the box, which gave Hakim Ziyech the chance to convert from the spot, which he did convincingly.
The Eagles weren’t behind for long, though. Some nice build-up play eventually culminating in Adem Ljajic sliding a wonderful ball into the path of Dusan Tadic, and the Southampton forward cooling slotted the ball past the keeper to bring Serbia on level terms just ten minutes later.
They would fail to hold the lead for long, though. Just three minutes after equalising Serbia were behind once more, a beautiful cross by Hakim Ziyech found Khalid Boutaib unmarked in the box, who nodded in from close range.
Serbia weren’t able to get back into the game in the second half and suffered their first friendly defeat since 2016.
Poland 0-1 Nigeria (International Friendly)
Nigeria will have a huge confidence boost coming into this friendly after defeating one of the best sides in Europe last week. The Super Eagles were able to overcome Poland at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw and claim the victory in the first ever match between the two sides.
Nigeria were fortunate not to go behind in the opening ten minutes when Poland captain Robert Lewandowski struck the post after the cross from Rafal Kurzawa evaded all defenders and found the Munich man in the box.
However, in the 60th minute, Victor Moses won a penalty after allegedly being tripped by Marcin Kaminski during a mazy run.
Replays showed that Moses was fortunate to earn the penalty rather than getting booked for what seemed a clear dive. The Chelsea wing-back converted the penalty, rolling the ball coolly into the bottom left corner.
The impressive victory means that Nigeria have now won five out of their last six matches in all competitions.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr is without full-back Shehu Abdullahi after he limped out with a hamstring injury but does have his captain John Obi Mikel back after a logistics problem saw him miss the tie against Poland.
Serbia head coach Mladen Krstajic may look to experiment after his side fell to Morocco last week, with the option to include Cardiff City midfielder Marko Grujic a possibility to add more attacking capabilities into the midfield.
Key Battle: John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) vs Nemanja Matic (Serbia)
If either side want to break through in this tie, it’ll hinder on this midfield battle. The two powerhouse centre midfielders have the ability to cut out any attacking threat and if the two are on form we may see a goalless draw.
However, with the pace in both midfields on offer, whichever man can come out on top will dictate the tie. The two are experienced in the speed of the Premier League, so whoever is able to adapt first will hold the key in how the game is played out.
The Super Eagles will be coming into the tie full of confidence after their victory over sixth in the world Poland last week and the boost in morale could be the difference. The players will obviously be wanting to capitalise on the win and carrying the momentum forward.
Obviously, Nigeria are considered underdogs heading into the World Cup and if they continue to be putting in high-level performances such as the win over Poland then the Super Eagles will be flying high heading to Russia.
Serbia will not be happy with themselves after a disappointing defeat to Morocco last week and will certainly be out for revenge and unfortunately for Nigeria they are in the firing line. The Serbian team is full of experienced players and bouncing back with a win is vital.
The attacking threat on offer for Serbia means that they really should be looking to bounce back and do so in style, with goals being a key item on the agenda.
The impact of a returning captain to a side can be huge, especially with someone so respected as John Obi Mikel. One of the key issues against Poland was that they were hit on the counter too often, and a cooler head could be the solution.
Plus, the morale boost the squad will feel with his return plus the confidence in the squad already could be a perfect combination for the Super Eagles and could see them put in a huge performance against Serbia, who are ranked 16 places above them in the latest FIFA world rankings.
Prediction: Nigeria 2-2 Serbia
Both of these teams could really do with a result in the final international friendly and may both go all out to do so. The attacking capability on offer should ensure that there are goals in this tie.