The Super Eagles will go into today’s last group D match against Argentina aware that they would be meeting a desperate team fighting for survival. Argentina is placed last on the Group D table and knows that only a win against Nigeria will take them to the next round of the competition.
A defeat means that the world’s acclaimed best player, Lionel Messi, will not win the one trophy remaining to complete his crown-laden chest. But the Super Eagles say his ambition is not worth more than the aspirations of over 190 million Nigerians, who want to see their team in the second round of the on-going World Cup in Russia.
The Super Eagles arrived in St. Petersburg from their Essentuki base camp on Sunday and had the first feel of the stadium yesterday. At the press conference before the training session, Coach Gernot Rohr told the media that his team was in St. Petersburg to confirm their qualification for the second round of the competition, adding that although he knew that Argentina was desperate for a win and therefore would come hard on Nigeria.
Rohr also acknowledged that a defeat tomorrow would end Argentina’s Lionel Messi’s World Cup career without the trophy, adding that the Eagles are not bothered with the fate of the FC Barcelona star.
He said, “In football there is no mercy. We are not thinking about Messi, whether it is his last World Cup or not. We are not here to watch him play. We are professionals in football and everybody wants to win. So, we cannot start feeling pity for Messi at our cost. I think he is very fit and we have to be aware of him.”
The coach revealed that every member of his team is fit and ready for the clash, adding, however, that Mikel Obi will play with a cast in his hand because of a slight fracture he suffered in the last game against Iceland.
He said, “Physically it will be difficult for us because we have had a shorter time to prepare than the Argentines. I hope the beginning will be better than the last two games. Mikel will play with cast because he has a minor fracture of the hand. He will be ready but we will plead with FIFA to allow him to play with a cast.”
He acknowledged that Argentina has more experience players, saying the youthfulness in such an important game could also be a disadvantage.
“In the first two games we committed two stupid penalties, which more experienced players would not make. But the boys are growing and learning.
“Argentina’s experience can help them but the most important thing is the confidence, discipline and concentration of my boys going into this game.”
Rohr assured Nigerians that Victor Moses, who was criticised for his seeming ‘bad attitude’ in the first two games, is committed to the cause, adding: “He is very fit and has been working hard in training.
“He had a week more holiday than the others because of his involvement in the English FA Cup final, but he is not ready to play.
“Moses has shown that he can sacrifice for the country by accepting to play through the position he does for Chelsea. He is a plus because he has accepted the new position in the Eagles.”
Rohr dismissed the belief that his team is vulnerable in set piece situations, adding that free kicks are scored everywhere and against any team, not only against Nigeria. “In the friendly against Argentina, they scored a free kick which was a gift also because the goalkeeper held the ball when he should not. Iheanacho also scored one against them in that match.
“So many other countries have problems with free kicks. We have to work on it. We have been doing it in training and we will do it again this evening.
We are improving and I hope we will not concede a penalty tomorrow.
“We are very optimistic that we will play a good game, our situation mentality is positive. They will try to start well by putting pressure on us, but we are in a positive position to do well against. I feel my players are hungry. The only problem is that we have one day less to prepare.”
Also speaking on the match, Brown Idowu, born in St. Petersburg and is very popular with the Russians, said the Eagles were not worried about set pieces. “We are working to avoid committing fouls around the area. We are equally working on converting our own set pieces to goals. The game tomorrow is a big one and we will come all out to confront Argentines. There are no small or big players in a match. It is your mindset. And we are ready for the game… w will give our best.”
Idowu revealed that many of the locals would support Nigeria because they see him as one of them. “I was born here. I saw my parents and friends yesterday. They will all be supporting Nigeria. If I am included in the team, I will try harder to make my friends and parents proud,” he said.