By James Agberebi:
Former Spain national team coach Javier Clemente has laughed off calls by Super Eagles skipper Mikel Obi asking Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic to play his regulars against Iceland on their final Group D game of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday.
Following Croatia’s qualification into the round of 16 with a game to spare, there are reports that Dalic could rest some of his key players like Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic.
And reacting to the report, Obi called on Dalic to show sportsmanship and field his best players against Iceland, believing the outcome of the game could have an effect in the game between Nigeria and Argentina which will also be played on Tuesday.
Iceland could qualify ahead of Nigeria and Argentina if the debutants beat Croatia by a wide margin and the Super Eagles and Argentina draw.
But Clemente who was Spain head coach at the 1998 World Cup in France when they crashed in the group stage, was having none of Mikel’s call for sportsmanship.
At the 1998 World Cup, Spain who lost 3-2 to the Super Eagles in their opening group game, needed the Eagles to avoid defeat against Paraguay while Clemente’s team had to beat Bulgaria to progress into the round of 16.
Having already qualified for the round of 16 following wins against Spain and Bulgaria, Super Eagles key players like Austin Okocha, Victor Ikpeba, Okechukwu Uche, Celestine Babayaro and Mutiu Adepoju were all rested against Paraguay.
Paraguay went on to beat the Eagles 3-1 and progressed while despite thrashing Bulgaria 6-1, Clemente’s Spain crashed out.
Recalling the events that unfolded at the 1998 World Cup, Clemente tweeted on Sunday: “Obi Mikel of Nigeria asks Croatia for sportsmanship and wants them to plays with the regulars.
“Nigeria in ’98 played with their substitutes against Paraguay and lost, Spain crashed out. That day it seemed sportsmanship was not important.”