Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr and defender Brian Idowu say they are determined to top their Group D 2018 World Cup clash against Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday to end Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi’s dreams.
Argentina need a win to remain in Russia in a fixture a draw could see the Super Eagles land in the Round of 16, depending on the outcome of the other group tie between leaders Croatia and Iceland at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don also on Tuesday.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Monday, the German insisted Messi remains one of the best players in the world despite his poor run in Russia, where he lost a penalty in La La Albiceleste’s opening match against Iceland.
“We are not focusing on Messi, although he is still one of the best players in the world despite his problems,” Rohr said.
“Everybody loves him. But in football there is no mercy, there is no pity. Everyone wants to win and no one can make any gifts, even if we like him so much. We focus on our own game and the things we have to do to win this important game.”
The 64-year-old former Gabon coach added, “Argentina seem to be doubting themselves and we capitalise on that. I feel we have a hungry team.”
Rohr hopes Ahmed Musa would lead the three-time African champions to victory as he did with his sublime brace in the 2-0 defeat of Iceland on Friday.
“Musa scored his goals against Iceland with his wonderful technique, and I hope he will do it again. He worked very hard when he was in Leicester and he did not play,” the former Bayern Munich defender said.
“We were worried when he was not playing at Leicester City and we asked him to come back to Russia (with CSKA Moscow).”
The ex-Nigeria coach added, “It will be a spectacular game in which we can play any tactic – 4-2-3-1, 4-3-1-1 or 3-5-2.”
He allayed fears that Mikel Obi, who injured his wrist against Iceland, would miss the match, saying the Nigeria captain “is ready for the game” and would play in cast.
Russia-bornIdowu, who was at the press conference, said the Eagles would aim to win the fixture.
He said, “We are not focusing on the problems in the Argentine team but on ourselves. We are going to be aggressive but avoid conceding free-kicks in dangerous areas.
“It will be our main goal, to make it Messi’s last World Cup game.
“As much as we enjoy watching Messi play, it’s against us. There’s only one option for us, (which) is that he plays his last game in St. Petersburg.”