The Chelsea midfielder, who helped the national Under-23 team win bronze (the country’s only medal) at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, promised victory against their hosts to maintain their continental superiority over them.
Zambia, who won their first African title at the Gabon and Equatorial Guinea 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, have not beaten Nigeria in a competitive game since their 1-0 victory over the Eagles in their Egypt ’86 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Lusaka on August 18, 1985. Chipolopolo progressed to qualify for the tournament.
Emmanuel Amuneke’s brace helped Nigeria defeat Zambia to win the Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations But the Zambians came back to beat the Eagles 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
None of the 16 previous meetings was a World Cup qualifier.
And Mikel, who has not featured for Chelsea this season, said on Thursday the team were ready for the Ndola encounter.
“We are all looking forward to the qualifying matches, starting with Sunday’s game in Zambia. Each and every one of us knows what it means – big battles that we have to win. We are ready for the challenge,” the 29-year-old, who represented Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, told Nigeria Football Federation’s official website.
Meanwhile, the players have been promised their win bonus for last month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania.
The Nigeria Football Federation also promised to refund their flight tickets and camp allowances for the World Cup qualifier against Zambia.