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Ailing goalie an inspiration

Wales manager Chris Coleman, Gareth Bale and teammates pose with shirts in reference to Carl Ikeme during training.

Seriously ill Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme is inspiring his teammates ahead of a key 2018 World Cup qualifier at African champions Cameroon in the return leg on Monday.

Nigeria can become the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup in Russia if they triumph in Yaounde and Zambia do not beat Algeria away 24 hours later.

Ikeme, the 31-year-old shot-stopper, was diagnosed with acute leukaemia during a routine medical at English second-tier club Wolverhampton Wanderers three months ago.

« We pledged to win this match for Carl, » said German-born Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr after a 4-0 rout of Cameroon in Uyo, Nigeria, in the first leg on Friday.

« He is in my thoughts and those of the coaches. I believe he will inspire us. »

With Ikeme hospitalised in England and South African-based reserve Daniel Akpeyi injured, local Ikechukwu Ezenwa dealt capably with Cameroon.

Nigeria are sitting pretty in Group B with a maximum nine points from three matches.

Zambia have four, Cameroon two and Algeria, the most impressive African side at the 2014 World cup in Brazil, only one.

Belgian-born Cameroon coach Hugo Broos accepts that Cameroon are likely to miss the 2018 World Cup having dropped seven points in three matches.

« Only a miracle can rescue us, » he admitted. « We would have to win our remaining three matches and hope Nigeria lose their last three. I do not think that is possible.

« But we have to defend our honour. If the players have the same attitude as me, we will fight to beat Nigeria. »

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