‘I will be in Uyo for moral support’ – Troost-Ekong embraces mascot role ahead of crucial South Africa clash

Ahead of the Super Eagles' 2026 World Cup qualifier against Bafana Bafana, Nigerian captain William Troost-Ekong has voiced the team's collective ambition to secure their place in the tournament.

The Super Eagles have struggled at the start of their qualifiers, recording two draws against underdogs Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

The West Africans are set to face Bafana Bafana in a matchday three encounter at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Friday, June 7.

Troost-Ekong stressed the importance of winning this game to enhance their chances of qualifying for the World Cup.

'I will be in Uyo for moral support' – Troost-Ekong embraces mascot role ahead of crucial South Africa clash
Photo by Icon Sport

Troost- Ekong recently returned to training after undergoing surgery in February for an injury he sustained at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

Troost-Ekong rallies Super Eagles ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin

The 30-year-old has expressed the significance of the upcoming matches and the optimism surrounding the team under newly appointed head coach, Finidi George. The Super Eagles are determined to turn their fortunes around after a shaky start to the qualifiers.

“Very important game. We all know we want to be in the 2026 World Cup,” Troost-Ekong told Arise TV.

“Coach Finidi is coming now, has been appointed which I think everyone’s very happy about – someone who understands Nigerian football. He’s been our assistant coach and deserved this shot now to be the head coach.”

Troost-Ekong, who is working hard to regain full match fitness, added, “I’m back fit now since two weeks but just missing some match fitness. I have personally been working on trying to get fit to give the coach the possibility to have me there.

'I will be in Uyo for moral support' – Troost-Ekong embraces mascot role ahead of crucial South Africa clash
Photo by Icon Sport

“I will be there in Uyo as well when they arrive. Some of the players are coming to support the charity game and I’ll try and hang around for the match to try and give them moral support, and try and do my best to share some of my experiences with some of the younger players.”

Troost-Ekong emphasised the importance of the forthcoming fixtures, stating, “These are definitely key games against South Africa and Benin for us to get a ticket towards the World Cup in 2026.”

Will Troost-Ekong's absence be felt in the Super Eagles' World Cup qualifiers?

Troost-Ekong, recently adjudged the best player of the tournament at the last AFCON in Ivory Coast and scored three goals, has been a pivotal figure in Nigeria's defence. His leadership and defensive prowess have been instrumental for the Super Eagles, raising concerns about how his absence might impact the team.

In the last two matches Troost-Ekong missed due to injury, the Super Eagles experienced mixed results—securing a victory in one (Ghana) and suffering a defeat in the other (Mali). This inconsistency highlights the void his absence creates, not just in terms of defence, but also in leadership and morale on the field.

The current squad, however, is not without its talents. Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey have been called up for the upcoming qualifiers.

Both players have shown promise and capability in their respective roles. Ajayi, with his robust defensive skills and aerial ability, has the potential to be a formidable presence in the backline.

'I will be in Uyo for moral support' – Troost-Ekong embraces mascot role ahead of crucial South Africa clash
Photo by Icon Sport

Bassey, known for his versatility and pace, brings a dynamic element to the defence that could be crucial against fast-paced opponents.

Despite their individual talents, the question remains: do they have what it takes to make fans forget Troost-Ekong, whose experience, leadership, and knack for crucial goals have been key to the Super Eagles' recent successes?

Nevertheless, the situation presents an opportunity for Ajayi and Bassey to step up and prove their worth. If they can rise to the occasion and deliver solid performances, they might just fill the gap and ensure the Super Eagles remain on course for World Cup qualification.

The upcoming games against South Africa and Benin will be a litmus test for the defensive resilience of the Super Eagles without their star defender.

Avatar photo
Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.