International Friendly: Who features in a Nigeria vs Serbia combined XI?
All of a sudden, international friendlies are no longer boring. If you still find it boring, my guess is: your team won’t be featuring in Russia 79 days from today. I’m not in those shoes. Every FIFA friendly catches my fancy. The one between Nigeria and Serbia will be my cup of tea this evening.
The Hive Stadium in London will host the first-ever football match between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Eagles of Serbia. The Serbians are ranked 34th in the world by FIFA – 18 places ahead of Nigeria who are 52nd. Albeit, judging from the Super Eagles astounding performance against teams in the top 10, FIFA ranking is the last thing the Serbs should be looking at.
Both teams have a full-strength squad to choose from. Nigeria can certainly thrive without Mikel John Obi. If the former Chelsea midfielder was to be available, he’d certainly make a combined XI involving both teams. In the absence of the Nigeria skipper, who else would make such a fictitious team?
GK – Marko Dmitrović
Dmitrović will hold down a spot in goal. The Eiber goalie has been decent for the Liga outfit, shutting out his opponents seven times in his 29 appearances. With his help, Eiber sits comfortably on La Liga standings, 18 points above the relegation zone.
The Super Eagles new first choice goalie, Francis Uzoho also plays in La Liga for Deportivo La Coruna, but the 19-year-old has been limited to two first-team appearances all season. He gets to understudy his Serbian counterpart in this team.
CBs – William Troost-Ekong and Dusko Tosic
William Troost-Ekong has formed a domineering centre-back partnership with Leon Balogun in the Super Eagles set-up. But it’s been Troost-Ekong who has been exceptionally brilliant and composed at the rearguard of Gernot Rohr’s side.
Troost-Ekong is a Dutch citizen and played for Holland at youth level. The 24-year-old plays his club football with Bursaspor in the Turkish Super Lig and is a mainstay in the team.
Troost-Ekong will be paired with an even more experienced, 33-year-old Besiktas defender, Dusko Tosic. Tosic is known for his brutish style of defending similar to what you'll get from a Sergio Ramos.
RB – Branislav Ivanovic
A Champions League and Europa League winner with Chelsea. Branislav Ivanovic is a Premier League cult hero. He’s however moved to Russia where he now features regularly for Zenit St Petersburg.
With his wealth of experience, the 34-year-old will be an assert for Serbia at the World Cup. His mastery of the right-back position earns him a place in my combined xi.
LB – Aleksandar Kolarov
Despite being deemed surplus to requirements by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Aleksandar Kolarov is no spent force. The 32-year-old Serb still poses the ability to pace up and down the left flank and whip in deadly crosses with that dangerous left foot of his.
Now an integral member of Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma side, Kolarov is the right man to play on the left for this team.
DM – Wilfred Ndidi
A young, vibrant and very intelligent midfield stalwart. Wilfred Ndidi is everything a modern-day defensive midfielder should be. The former Genk man is having another spectacular season in the Premier League.
His efficiency with the ball, ability to trade and win tackles, aerial duels and shooting ability defines a player who could walk straight into any of the best teams in the world and command a regular berth.
CM – Nemanja Matic
Playing for Manchester United gives you popularity, but Nemanja Matic was already a popular figure before joining the Premier League’s most successful team. Matic is an admirable midfield marshal who can dictate the game’s tempo from the middle of the pitch.
His athletism, skill and experience couldn’t prevent his team from falling to Morocco a few days ago. The Serb's deputy skipper is expected to make amends against Nigeria.
LMF – Dušan Tadić
Fans of Premier League club, Southampton would most certainly be familiar with Tadic. The 29-year-old attacker grabbed the solitary goal in Serbia’s 2-1 defeat to Morocco.
With his pace and shooting ability, the Soton forward is favourite to start against the Super Eagles.
AMF – Alex Iwobi
Rohr is certain to hand Jay-Jay Okocha’s nephew another starting berth. Iwobi was quiet in the Super Eagles latest outing, but the Arsenal forward is a talented lad who can light up any stage.
A young, boisterous and nimble-footed attacker, the 21-year-old has had fans of the Super Eagles chanting excitedly on many occasions. No point delving in his recent form at Arsenal.
RMF – Victor Moses
Powerful, resilient, tenacious and skilled. Victor Moses is a different beast when he plays for his country. Last Friday the Chelsea man gifted the Super Eagles a historic win against Poland to cap off a spectacular performance.
CF – Odion Ighalo
Once upon a time, a certain Odion Ighalo tormented Premier League defenders mercilessly. Until his head got turned by Changchun Yatai, in the Chinese Super League. He hasn’t become any less deadly. The former Udinese forward is an unstoppable force when in his elements.
The 28-year-old starts ahead of Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrović in this team.
Manager – Gernot Rohr