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The African champions were the first to arrive for the game in the heart of South America on Thursday ahead of their encounter with the European debutants on Saturday

By Lolade Adewuyi in Cuiaba

Nigeria arrived in Cuiaba on Thursday ahead of opponents Bosnia-Herzegovina for Saturday’s Group F game at the Arena Pantanal.

While the Super Eagles trained in the evening at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso, the Europeans were yet to arrive the city from their camp in Guaruja in Sao Paolo state.

Coach Stephen Keshi led the team through its paces after their usual opening prayer that was watched by only a handful of journalists.

Showing marked improvement, defender Godfrey Oboabona was able to walk around the pitch with one of the technical staff.

Alongside Goal, there were only two other Nigerian journalists and a sprinkling of Brazilian and other foreign journalists on ground to watch their first training in Cuiaba.

Many of the Brazilian journalists on ground were interested in the recent bomb attacks that killed football viewing fans in Nigeria. They also were keen to learn the similarities between midfielder Victor Moses and Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko whose families have both faced war situations.

It was learnt that the stadium was packed with more than 150 journalists when the South Korean national team trained there last week. The Koreans had seven television stations that relayed live images back to their country.  

Thursday and Friday being public holidays to celebrate the Corpus Christi festival, the city of Cuiaba is slowly warming up to welcome the Super Eagles.

Most shops were shut on Thursday and it is expected that the case will be the same on Friday with many people having traveled out of town to visit family members.

However, visiting Nigeria and Bosnia fans have been trickling into the city which is expected to really begin throbbing on Friday evening.

Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso state, is considered as the geographical centre of South America, 2,000km from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is one of the warmest cities in Brazil with temperatures reaching 30 degrees in the winter.

The Arena Pantanal where Nigeria will play on Saturday is has a capacity of 43,600. It is the home stadium of Mixto EC and Cuiaba EC.

Cuiaba is not as big or as organized as the other south-eastern Brazilian host cities of Sao Paulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.

Saturday’s match is a must win for both sides who hope to progress to the next round of the competition. While Nigeria have a point from their goalless draw with Iran, Bosnia will be looking for their first points after losing 2-1 to Argentina in their opening game.

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