Nigeria battle fatigue ahead of Brazil trip

Nigeria, already hampered by injuries, will arrive in Brazil for the Confederations Cup feeling travel weary after a punishing schedule as they prepare to fly the flag for African football.

The rigours of having to play two World Cup qualifiers away from home over a seven-day period before the tournament have been compounded by an agreement to play a friendly with Mexico in Houston, necessitating exhaustive transatlantic travel.

They have also been weakened by the absence of first-choice players Victor Moses, taking time off to rest niggling injuries after his first season at Chelsea, and strikers Emmanuel Emenike and Ike Uche, out with knee complaints.

Nigeria set off from a training camp in Germany for Texas where they drew 2-2 with Mexico at the end of last month before flying to Kenya for a morale-boosting 1-0 win over their hosts in Nairobi on Wednesday.

That Group F qualifier is followed this Wednesday by another in Namibia after which the Nigerians will leave for Brazil, where they open their Confederations Cup campaign in Belo Horizonte on June 17.

That they play tiny Tahiti in their group opener offers Nigeria some breathing room but preparations for subsequent games against Uruguay and Spain are on hold as World Cup qualification takes priority.

"Our focus is now on the match against Namibia in Windhoek next Wednesday," coach Stephen Keshi said.

"We have to pick maximum points from that match as well, to make sure of our progress in the race, even ahead of the last matches in the group."

Nigeria have a slender two-point lead over Malawi with two rounds to play.

A late goal from Ahmed Musa in Kenya provided a first positive for the Super Eagles since their unexpected success at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in February.

Instead of stepping up after winning the continental title, Nigeria were lucky to draw at home with Kenya in March and coach Keshi has been embroiled in spats with officialdom.

It followed a strange resignation by Keshi, just hours after winning the Nations Cup, that was quickly withdrawn but has led to strained relations with his employers.

Keshi said in recent interviews that his refusal to accept interference in his job means he is constantly being undermined.

Nigeria are making their second appearance at the Confederations Cup, following a fourth-place finish in Saudi Arabia in 1995.