–Eagles defender ready for a rematch with Argentina ace
Efe Ambrose admits Nigeria may have to get mob handed with Lionel Messi to ensure the Argentinian superstar doesn’t ruin their World Cup adventure.
The Celtic defender has prior experience of trying to tame the Barcelona magician during Champions League clashes between the two clubs in recent seasons.
Iran and Bosnia Herzegovina make up Group F with the Super Eagles facing both sides next week before a June 25 meeting with the South Americans that could become the
make-or-break contest in their quest to make an impact at Brazil 2014.
A record of having lost three out of their four previous meetings with Messi does little to disguise a task which is being billed as one of the most daunting prospects in the entire tournament.
But Ambrose insists his nation have the tools at their disposal to keep a tight rein not only on the best player on the planet but on his supporting cast as well.
He said: “I have played against Messi with Celtic and there is no doubting he is a special player. But just like any other player he can be stopped.
“It’s not just me but about all the other good defenders we have in the squad.
“We are very strong defensively and believe we will be able to stop Messi and all the other exceptional players that Argentina have.”
The 25-year-old admits that sometimes your best just isn’t good enough when it comes to trying to shackle one of football’s all-time greats.h
But the defender is aiming to make sure his team-mates are provided with a first hand briefing on how best to tackle the almost unstoppable force that is Messi.
He said: “I have experience of playing against Messi and if I can use that in any way to help prepare my team-mates then I will. With players of that quality there is very little you can do to prepare – you just have to make sure you are at your best on the day.”
Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina are the bookies’ favourites to top their group as well as being tipped as one of the fancied nations to go the distance and lift the trophy at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana on July 13.
With the likes of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero in their ranks, the South Americans aren’t short on star names. But Ambrose is adamant football has a habit of springing a few surprises.
He said: “I’m sure with the players they have everybody expects Argentina to win the group. But in football not everything is that simple.”
Nigeria’s qualifying process for reaching Brazil 2014 included an unbeaten run through the group phase against Malawi, Kenya and Namibia before they battled past Ethiopia in a play-off double header.
That has only served to fuel a belief that the reigning African champions can be the dark horse nation for this year’s competition.
Recent World Cup finals history doesn’t make good reading for the Super Eagles who have picked up just two points from their last six games in the tournament.
But the weight of expectation sits easily on the shoulders of Ambrose who insists it will only be divine intervention which will determine thesuccess or failure of their latest attempt at making an impact on the sport’s biggest stage.
He said: “I don’t want to talk much about what my expectations are for Nigeria. I don’t want to give the team unnecessary pressure and I also don’t want to set limits if maybe we can go further.
“We are just going to take it one game at a time in Brazil and see where that gets us.
“There is no value in making predictions at this stage only God knows our destiny.”
Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel remains the lynchpin of the Nigerian side while Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike are all key parts of their attack.