From Mumini Alao in Port Alegre:
Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi has hailed the industry of his players who qualified for the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup despite a 3-2 defeat against Argentina.
The Super Eagles gave a spirited fight throughout the game but Ahmed Musa’s brace were not enough to cancel the hat trick from Barcelona superstar, Lionel Messi.
Keshi commented moments after the fiesty encounter and expressed his satisfaction by the statistics of his team since he took charge.
“I feel honoured by the statistics of my achievement with Nigeria so far, especially this second round qualification which we didn’t get for 16 years,” Keshi remarked.
“I want to thank my players for the achievement and also some of the Nigerian fans back home. We expected a difficult game because Argentina are a great football country.
Keshi identifies the expertise of Barcelona star Lionel Messi as the difference between his team and Argentina.
“Messi is one heck of a player, you can’t take it away from him. There are other good players in the Argentine team, but Messi is from another planet, jupiter.
The one-time Strasbourg of France defender also highlighted a factor which tilted the game in favour of the South Americans.
“I think my players gave Argentina too much respect especially in the first half. But at half time, I told them to go out and show how good we could play. The match could have gone either way. I’m not too disappointed with our performance,” Keshi stressed.
“I wasn’t following the Bosnia-Iran game. I was focused on our own game. I heard the result at the final whistle, so I’m happy we qualified.
Speaking about the Eagles’ likely opponents in the Round of 16, France, Keshi had this to say:
“We know that France is a good team. We have another opportunity to watch them again before we play them in the next round. We will be ready for them.
Finally, Keshi delivered a rather sad injury news concerning midfielder Babatunde Michael who suffered a broken hand in the game against Argentina.
“I’m not sure Babatunde will play again in this World Cup. He suffered a broken hand and I’m told he has to go for surgery. His injury is bad enough( to stop him from playing the Round of 16 game).”