26 June 2018

Africa: Eagles in Landmark Match Against Argentina

For Nigeria trainer Gernot Rohr, Tuesday's FIFA World Cup match against Argentina at the Saint Petersburg Stadium is like a gold-medal match since a win guarantees Super Eagles a place at the next round.

Only on Friday, the West Africans pulled their chestnut from the fire with a stunning 2-0 win over Iceland after losing by the same margin to Croatia in their opening Group D match.

Tuesday's match will be Rohr's 20th as Super Eagles' trainer since he took charge of the three-time African champions two years ago and Nigeria's 21st match at the FIFA World Cup finals - having won six and drawn three in the previous 20.

Argentina have won all four previous confrontations between both sides including a 2-1 win on Nigeria's debut in 1994 in USA, with further victories in closely-fought encounters at Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. But Rohr, a former Bayern Munich defender, is optimistic going into this decisive match against the South Americans who are still looking for their first win in Russia.

"It will be a tough game and we must go with a tough mentality from the start to the end (against Argentina)," said Rohr who will be 65 on June 28.

"Simply put, we must take even half chances, and be on the offensive as much as possible. Perhaps, a draw could be good to qualify, but we cannot think and play for a draw. Sometimes, when you play for a draw, you get punched in the face late in the day.

"It would be the final match for us in the group and we must play to win; we beat them 4-2 in the friendly in Krasnodar but without Messi.

"Our confidence is back with the victory against Iceland and the good thing about my young team is humility, solidarity and the team spirit which would be very important."

Nigeria turned on the star against Iceland with two classy goals by 25-year-old Ahmed Musa who readily fancies his chances of increasing his World Cup goal tally.

"It's nice to be the top scorer for Nigeria at the World Cup," said Musa who now has four goals in two World Cup appearances following his brace in Nigeria's 2-3 defeat to Argentina four years ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

"The good thing is that I always score whenever I played against Argentina especially if Messi is in the team; I did it in Brazil and I also scored twice for Leicester when I played against Barcelona and Messi in the team.

"I'm taking everything step by step and we know the important of the game because we just have to win.

Yet former Nigeria manager Adegboye Onigbinde who was in charge when Argentina recorded a 1-0 win against the Super Eagles at the 2002 World Cup in Ibaraki, has predicted another close contest in Saint Petersburg.

"Argentina may be in bad shape as far as the on-going World Cup is concerned but they have a way of coming back when the chips are down," hinted Onigbinde.

"The Super Eagles must therefore, prepare for an herculean task against Argentina on Tuesday."

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