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Balogun replaces Yobo as Nigeria face Mexico

Joseph Yobo

Nigeria will have to do without team captain Joseph Yobo for the friendly match against Mexico in Atlanta on Wednesday. Yobo who plays for Norwich City suffered an undisclosed injury in an English Premier League match last Saturday.

The defender has been replaced by 25-year-old uncapped German-born defender Leon Balogun who plays for German second division side Fortuna Dusseldorf. The last minute replacement for Yobo has a Nigerian father and a German mother.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has expressed his sadness on the setback for Yobo who has not played for Nigeria since February 2013 and wishes him a quick recovery.

Keshi said, “He (Balogun) is not replacing Yobo at all. Yobo was still bent on coming for the game even if just to support the team but I told him to relax and recover quickly for the World Cup. We have to look to the future and that is why we called up Balogun. He has been in our plans for a long time and it was just time that he stepped into the team for us to see what he can do and I must say I am glad that he responded well and the boys here also welcomed him well.”

The team had a full house training session Tuesday at the Georgia Dome. All the players invited for the friendly are now in Atlanta. The last arrival in camp was Godfrey Oboabona, whose flight was delayed in Chicago due to bad weather.

Wednesday’s game will kick off at 8.30pm local time (2.30am Thursday — Nigeria).  The organisers said that more than 60,000 tickets had been sold for the game, in what will be the largest crowd ever to attend a football match in Atlanta. The previous record was 54,229 for the 2013 Gold Cup double header at the Georgia Dome.

Keshi has also said that he is excited about the upcoming match between Nigeria and Scotland scheduled for May 28.  He declared Eagles’ readiness for the game and thanked the Nigeria Football Federation for Nigeria’s preparations for the World Cup.

He said, “We are delighted to be playing the Scottish team in London as part of our pre-World Cup preparations and we know it will be a real test in front of a passionate crowd. We hope that many London-based Nigerians will come out en masse to give the Eagles a rousing send forth to Brazil 2014.”

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