Focus first, then dream of winning Cup
2018 Soccer World Cup (Supplied)
Johannesburg - Former captain Joseph Yobo has urged Nigeria to focus on their first game rather than dream of the World Cup Russia final – and he backed them to hold their own against Argentina.
The Super Eagles begin their Group D campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad, before taking on Iceland and then Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentinians.
“It should be one game at a time,” Nigeria’s joint most-capped player (101 appearances), who played at Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 before retiring, told News Agency of Nigeria.
“You don’t go to the World Cup and dream of playing in the final when you are not done with what you have right before you in the group stage,” said Yobo.
“Win your first game and prepare for the next one without thinking of the third game. It should be one at a time.
“I don’t think it is good to lose the first game and begin to panic. If the Super Eagles can win the first game, the confidence and quality will build and Nigerians will see quality in them as the competition progresses.”
Nigeria and Argentina will play their fifth World Cup encounter in St Petersburg.
Claudio Caniggia’s brace – he scored the first after a clever free-kick between Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta and added a superb second – saw the South Americans win 2-1 in the US in 1994.
Yobo then played in 1-0 losses in 2002 and 2010, and in a Messi-inspired 3-2 defeat in 2014.
However, without Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria overcame Nicolás Otamendi, Ángel Di María, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Agüero 4-2 in a friendly last November.
“I played against Argentina in three World Cups,” said Yobo. “Maybe this is the time for Nigeria to record her first victory over the Albiceleste at the World Cup. If we don’t concede an early goal against Argentina, we should be able to get at least a draw.
“Croatia, Iceland … anything can happen. Croatia we know, but Iceland is the surprise package of Group D.
“I disagree with those worrying about the Super Eagles’ defence. What is important is experience. Yes, we may not have experienced senior players in that area, but we have talented, fearless young players who can hold their own against any team. I really don’t think the defence is as bad as it is being portrayed.”
The coach: Gernot Rohr
Rohr is one of the most experienced coaches in Africa, having enjoyed stints with Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. The German took charge of Nigeria in August 2016 and immediately revived their fortunes, with the Super Eagles qualifying for Russia 2018 with a game to spare, becoming the first African team to secure a spot.
The star: John Obi Mikel
Nigeria’s captain remains their key man in central midfield.
A Uefa Champions League winner with Chelsea, Mikel’s experience, strength and composure will be vital for the Super Eagles.
Nigeria vs Zambia (1-0) October 7 last year.
A slick Super Eagles move between Moses, Odion Ighalo and Iwobi was slotted home superbly by the Arsenal youngster, sending Nigeria soaring towards Russia. – Fifa.com