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banner Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Nigeria come on strong
celestine babayaro
Babayaro at the Olympics, the fares to which provoked his row with the Nigerian FA
Nigeria coach Amodu Shaibu has named a strong squad to take on Madagascar in a Nations Cup qualifier even though the Super Eagles are almost sure of a Finals spot.

The 24-man squad has 16 players with overseas clubs while the rest play for domestic clubs.

Football fans and pundits had expected Shaibu, who mounted the saddle following the sacking of Dutch-born coach Jo Bonfrere, to name an experimental side for the penultimate qualifier because Nigeria are so close to reaching the 16-nation finals tournament in Mali.

  Group One Table
1 Nigeria P4 GD 6-1 Pts 8
2 Madagascar P4 GD 5-5 Pts 5
3 Zambia P4 GD 4-5 Pts 4
4 Namibia P4 GD 5-9 Pts 4

The Nigerians, with eight points, lead their group which also includes Namibia and Zambia and from which the top two teams will qualify.

But Shaibu, in defending his decision, said: "There is no time for me to experiment, hence I've decided to stick to the regular players.

World Cup target

"Every Nigerian match is important to me now and we have to field our best players.

After the Madagascar match, Nigeria will play Namibia in Windhoek on June 16.

Then come the crunch World Cup qualifiers, versus Sudan in Omdurman on July 1 and against Ghana on July 28 at home.

amodu shaibu
Shaibu has picked his side with the World Cup in mind
In April, Nigeria beat surprise group leaders Liberia 2-0 to revive their fading hopes of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.

For the Madagascar match, Shaibu has recalled Chelsea wing-back Celestine Babayaro, who last played for Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier against Sudan in January.

Flight expenses row

Babayaro has missed his country's internationals since then because of rows over his release between Chelsea and the Nigerian Football Association (NFA).

The player also said he would not honour invitations until the NFA paid him thousands of pounds in flight expenses incurred when he travelled to Sydney last year to play for the under-23 side at the Olympic Games.

NFA seceretary-general Tijjani Yusuf said: "We're trying to resolve that issue and make the refund to Babayaro and some of his affected colleagues."

austin okocha
Okocha returns after illness
Talented midfielder Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha, who missed the Liberia match due to illness, is also in the squad but defender Emeka Ifejiagwa and Nigeria's scoring sensation at the 2000 Nations Cup finals Julius Aghahowa were dropped.

The squad is expected to assemble not later than May 28 in mid-western Benin City, venue of the match, which last hosted a senior international in 1984.

Goalkeepers: Ike Shorounmu (Besiktas), Idah Peterside (Tembissa Classic, South Africa), Murphy Akanji (Julius Berger)
Defenders: Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea), Joseph Yobo (Standard Liege), Justice Christopher (Bendel Insurance), Taribo West (AC Milan), Isaac Okoronkwo (Shakhtar Donetsk), Eric Ejiofor (Enyimba), Friday Nwodu (Rangers)
Midfielders: Sunday Oliseh (Borussia Dortmund), Karibe Ojigwe (Bayer Leverkusen), Garba Lawal (Roda Kerkrade), Austin "Jay-Jay" Okocha (Paris Saint Germain), Duke Udi (Enyimba), Ugochukwu Okeke (Nationale)
Strikers: Finidi George (Real Mallorca), Victor Agali (Hansa Rostock), Benedict Akwuegbu (Graz AK), Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal), Tijani Babangida (Glencerbirligi), Ishola Shaibu (Julius Berger), Emmanuel Issa (Katsina United), Efe Ehiorobo (National Ports Authority)

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25 Mar 01 |  Cup of Nations
Cup of Nations round-up
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