Ireland vs. Nigeria Preview and Pick

Ireland vs. Nigeria 2 PM ET Friday May 29, 2009

by Jason Green of

On Friday evening at Craven College in London in an international friendly match Ireland takes on African giants Nigeria. This game will feature many stars from the English Premier League, as Tottenham’s Robbie Keane, Newcastle’s Damien Duff and Manchester City’s Shay Given will be on the squad, but may not see action. For Nigeria John Obi Mikel and Fulham’s own Dickson Etuhu are all expected to play for Nigeria.

Even though this is only a friendly match it is an important one, as both teams are looking to tune up for upcoming World Cup qualifying games next weekend. Nigeria plays at home against Kenya on June 7th and they are in the final round stages and they need to win that match. They played to a 0-0 draw against Mozambique in their opening round game and need to snag 3 important points in group play. If they win that game they will play Tunisia away, which will be a huge game since Tunisia leads the group.


Ireland is in good shape in qualifying for the World Cup, as they are in 2nd place in Group 8 and are 2 points back of Italy and 5 points ahead of Bulgaria. The Irish have drawn their last 2 World Cup qualifying matches and if they beat, or probably even tie, Bulgaria in Sofia on June 6th they should be able to book their ticket for South Africa next summer. Ireland may tinker with their lineup in this game, as they look to get the right formation for next weekend’s HUGE match in Bulgaria.

Ireland is the favorite in this match at 2.05 and Nigeria are the underdogs at 3.15 with a draw at 3.20.

Nigeria Recent Form

10/11/08 Nigeria 4 Sierra Leone 1
3/29/09 Mozambique 0 Nigeria 0

Ireland Recent Form

3/29/09 Ireland 1 Bulgaria 1
4/1/09 Italy 1 Ireland 1

The Nigerians are known for their attack, but they will be without two of their strongest forwards, as Newcastle F Obafemi Martins and Hoffenheim F are both out with groin injuries. The Nigerians will also be without Everton’s Joseph Yobo Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi, who both will be playing in Premier League matches this weekend.

Nigeria will have to score on a stingy Ireland defense, which has only conceded 4 goals in their last 6 World Cup qualifying games.

John Utaka of Portsmouth will be counted on to set the pace on offense for Nigeria. He has struggled in the Premier League this season only scoring one goal.

Nigeria manager Amodu Shuaibu will use various defensive formations in order to tune up for their big match against Kenya next weekend.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni admitted that some of his regulars looked tired in their recent trainings and he will debut several young Premier League players such as Leon Best, Keiren Westwood, Sean St Ledger and Liam Lawrence.

Ireland must be prepared for a physical game, as Nigeria is a very strong and fast team.

Ireland is a very disciplined team on defense and they will have their hands against Nigeria, who feature a full out attacking style.

Nigeria has always been one of the strongest teams in Africa and since they missed out in playing in Germany in 2006 they are hungry to get back to the World Cup.

In the current FIFA world rankings Nigeria is ranked 30th and Ireland is ranked 34th.

Jason’s Pick: Ireland would seem to have the advantage in this match in London, but Nigeria is very unpredictable and they have many solid young players. Ireland will be resting some big names and that may be the difference maker, as I see Nigeria pulling off the upset with a score of 3-1.