Arab Times

Swaziland will be ‘difficult’: Oliseh


ABUJA, Nov 11, (AFP): Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh has warned his players not to see Swaziland as a pushover, as they prepare for a World Cup qualifier on Lombambo’s artificial pitch.

Swaziland are ranked 130th in the FIFA world rankings, while three-time African champions Nigeria are 59th.

But Oliseh, who has been receiving treatment for a viral infection that kept him away from his duties, said that counted for nothing because of the conditions and their record.

“It won’t be easy playing against them, especially on their artificial pitch,” he told reporters in Abuja late on Tuesday.

“They shocked Guinea and we got our wake-up call with Tanzania,” he said, referring to the Super Eagles’ goalless draw in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Dar es Salaam in September.

“But the boys are in high spirits and I’m optimistic.”

As well as his own health concerns, Oliseh has had to grapple with the delayed arrival of his overseas-based stars due to flight hitches.

But he said the team’s recent friendlies against DR Congo and Cameroon should stand the team in good stead.

“Our recent tour in Belgium should be good enough preparatio­n for us,” he said.

Watford striker Odion Ighalo said he will prepare for the game as he would for a fixture in the English Premier League.

Ighalo, who has scored seven goals in the English Premier League, said no team in world football should be under-estimated.

Mehmed Bazdarevic’s squad features the likes of Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and Roma duo Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko.

And along with that quality comes experience of these occasions, albeit the memories are not happy — Bosnia lost to Portugal in play-offs for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, Scandinavi­an rivals Sweden and Denmark meet in the first leg of their tie in Solna, just outside Stockholm, on Saturday.

The two nations, linked by the Oresund Bridge spanning the water from Copenhagen to Malmo, have plenty of previous in the European Championsh­ip.

Denmark won Euro ‘92 in Sweden, but only after losing to the hosts in the group stage, while a 2-2 draw between the sides at Euro 2004 in Portugal took them through to the quarter-finals at Italy’s expense.

Then there was the Euro 2008 qualifier in Copenhagen in 2007 that was abandoned after a Danish supporter ran on to the pitch and attacked the German referee who had just awarded Sweden a penalty and sent off Denmark’s Christian Poulsen for a punch on Markus Rosenberg.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c fresh from winning Sweden’s Golden Ball award and having scored nine goals in six league games for Paris Saint-Germain, Erik Hamren’s side will be hopeful of taking a lead into the return.

Denmark, meanwhile, will be without Hannover midfielder Leon Andreasen after he cut his hand with a knife opening a parcel and needed an operation.

“It pleases me that we get the opportunit­y to decide it all at home,” said Danish coach Morten Olsen after the draw was made.

Hungary had been poised to qualify automatica­lly as the best third-placed team until a late Turkey goal in the 89th minute of their final match took them through instead.

That was agonising for a country with a rich footballin­g history but which hasn’t been to a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.

However, Hungary, coached by German Bernd Storck, have another chance to progress as they face Norway over two legs, with the first game in Oslo on Thursday.

“We feel we know Hungary well, and know what to expect,” said confident Norway coach Per-Mathias Hogmo after naming his squad.

The other tie sees Ukraine host Slovenia in Lviv on Saturday before the return in Maribor next Tuesday.

Ukraine have been described as a

Ibrahimovi­c “technicall­y sophistica­ted and robust team” by Slovenia coach Srecko Katanec, but they do not retain happy memories of qualifying play-offs.

Beaten by Slovenia in a play-off for Euro 2000, Ukraine also suffered an agonising defeat to France in a twolegged tie for a place at the 2014 World Cup.

The four play-off winners will join the 19 other qualified nations and the hosts France in the finals draw in Paris on Dec 12.

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