The interim boss of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, Augustine Eguavoen, has expressed his full confidence in the abilities of Innocent Bonke to step into the injured Wilfred Ndidi's shoes in the middle of the park.
Ndidi suffered an injury while playing for Leicester City just one week after the squad list for the Ghana clash was announced and Bonke, who was on standby, was called to replace the injured midfield enforcer.
Speaking to journalists in Nigeria on Wednesday before the trip to Kumasi, Ghana, for the first leg of the playoffs, Eguavoen noted that Bonke was put on standby because he is a reliable option to have.
“I work hard on information. I believe strongly in the fact that everyone invited to the team is good enough to start,” Eguavoen said when asked if Ndidi's absence would affect his plans.
“I know what to expect from Bonke and so I trust him well enough to do a good job if he is selected to play,” he added.
Bonke is also confident about his abilities in the role, believing that he is truly deserving of the call-up.
The Lorient midfielder started the season as a Malmö FF player in the Swedish top flight, even playing in the UEFA Champions League. However, he sealed a January move to Lorient in France, and has also become a trustworthy option for the French side.
Bonke, who had only two caps for Nigeria prior to this call-up, insists he feels no pressure being called to fill in for the injured Ndidi.
“It was a late invitation but I have to honour it,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s training session. “The fact I am going to replace one of the most important players in the team, I don’t have any pressure about that.
“I am here to do my job. The game is very, very important for Nigerians and for we as players, we are going to give our best so we come out victorious at the end of the day.”
Asked whether starting in Kumasi would surprise him, Bonke replied: “I won’t be surprised, I am training, focused and ready to take the chance.”
Skippers say hostile Kumasi ground won't faze Super Eagles
Speaking to journalists in the last press conference before the trip to Ghana for the first leg of the tie alongside interim manager Eguavoen, team captain Ahmed Musa said that Kumasi fans will not be a bother to him and his teammates.
The rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana in Africa's football scene will be renewed on March 25 and both sets of fans are readying their support for their side.
Asked if the noise from the Ghanaian fans will pose a problem, Musa said boldly that it will not be a problem.
“I have not played in Ghana previously but I have played at grounds were the fans are very passionate so this will not be a problem for us as a team. We do have the experience,” Musa said.
William Troost-Ekong, team vice captain, also noted that the game is enough motivation for players to give their all for Nigeria's honour on the pitch.
“The good thing about this match is that there is absolutely little need to ginger any of our players before the match,” Troost-Ekong added. “Indeed, what we need to do is to make sure we are all calm enough to execute our game on the day.”
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago