Speaking before training at EverBank stadium in Jacksonville, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi says his team is raring to go for the World Cup, but admits the end of the club season has left his team struggling to get fully prepared.
“We don’t have a lot of time, the time is very short, I wish we could have more time that would be much better,” Keshi said. “I am not alone, I think the rest of the coaches are experiencing the same stuff, but some teams are better than some teams, so we’ll just do the best we can do.”
Like many coaches have in the last few weeks, Keshi believes the fitness levels of his players are all at a different level, making things tough on him to get them to the correct level.
He said striker Ahmed Musa, who has a thigh strain, will not play in the match Saturday against the US, and defender Elderson Echiejile will miss out with a hamstring injury. Keshi said “we hope to get them back by next week.” Juwon Oshaniwa, who was battling malaria, is back fit and training again.
However, with the Cup almost here, Keshi will use match against the United States as a barometer for his team’s preparation, and Nigeria will go full-tilt into the match.
He says tomorrow’s game will give him and his staff a great view into the team’s readiness for their first World Cup game, against Iran in Curitiba on June 16.
“[The US is] a very good team, I think [Jurgen] Klinsmann has done a wonderful job trying to set up a very strong team,” Keshi said of tomorrow’s opponents. “That is why it’s very good for us that we’re playing against the US before the Iran game. We can assess our team and also correct whatever problems we face tomorrow for the game against Iran.”
Playing a strong pre-tournament schedule, Keshi and Nigeria have come from London where they took on Scotland at Craven Cottage at the end of May, then made their way to Philadelphia as they finished 0-0 against Greece.
One thing is for certain, there’s no hiding why the US scheduled this friendly just before their opening round game against Ghana on June 16.
“I think Nigeria plays similar football [to Ghana], and it will be a good thing for the United States, they should be able to capitalize on that.”
For both sides, the Brazilian heat has been a concern leading up to the match, but with temperatures in Jacksonville hitting 90 today and expected to come close again tomorrow, it’s providing good preparation for the teams as they look ahead to Brazil.
“It’s been very tough,” Keshi said of the heat. “Yesterday was very hot and we had two training sessions yesterday, and [today] we are experiencing the same thing, but sometimes in Brazil we might get the same weather so we have to live with it, we have no choice.”