Coach Gernot Rohr has admitted that the Super Eagles must be on the attack against Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday and diligently take the chances that come their way against the two –time World Cup winners.
“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 will be a tough game and we must go with a tough mentality from the start to the end.
The Eagles returned to their Sanatorium Istochnik Hotel in Essentuki on Saturday having no illusions that Tuesday’s match will be a piece of cake. In the evening, they saw how reigning world champions Germany came from behind to defeat a Swedish team that had chances to win but apparently played for a draw in Sochi.
Nigeria’s army is presented with less days to prepare for the game against the South Americans than they had for the second match against Iceland following the opener against Croatia. There were five days to get ready for Iceland after the loss to Croatia but three days to prepare for Argentina after the win over Iceland.
The Argies have been Nigeria’s perennial Nemesis at the FIFA World Cup. In five previous appearances, the Eagles have had to play Argentina in the group phase on four occasions. It was only in France 1998 that both teams ended up in different sections.
Argentina have won all four, though narrowly. And while bookmakers would be quick to emphasize the gulf in class, Argentina won the last of their two FIFA World Cup titles 32 years ago, and current form (determinable only by recent results) does not present Lionel Messi and company as unbeatable.
In Russia, their opening 1-1 draw with Iceland was followed by a stunning 3-0 lashing by Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod, meaning the Eagles (who got their campaign back on track with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd) and the Albiceleste arrive the 67,000 –capacity Zenit Arena on Tuesday via different trajectories.
Skipper Mikel John Obi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielder Ogenyi Onazi and forwards Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses were in the Nigerian squad that lost 2-3 to the Argies in Porto Alegre on 25th June 2014. But the recency factor will mean they all remember how the Eagles bashed the Argies 4-2 in a friendly on Russian soil (Krasnodar) seven months ago. That match, on 14th November 2017, was also on a Tuesday.
That friendly encounter was the second time that Nigeria would score four goals against the Albiceleste – the first was a 4-1 reverse for the South Americans in a friendly in Abuja on the first day of June 2011.
Argentina have never scored four goals against Nigeria at senior level.
Omeruo and Onazi were in the Nigeria U17 team that defeated Argentina during the U17 World Cup hosted by Nigeria nine years ago, and Mikel, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi, who played pivotal roles in the win in Krasnodar, are likely to start for the Eagles on Tuesday.
The encounter at the Zenit Arena will be Rohr’s 20th as Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser since taking charge two years ago, during which he has lost only two competitive matches. It will be Nigeria’s 21st match at the FIFA World Cup finals, having won six and drawn three in the previous 20.