Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi has declared that they do not intend “to take Iran lightly” when the teams clash in Curitiba in a Group F game at the World Cup on Monday.
Keshi admitted only having the faintest of idea about Team Melli as his team brace for their first match of the Mundial in Brazil.
The Nigerian manager also acknowledged that the Iranians have a top class coach in Carlos Queiroz whom he describes as “their biggest weapon”.
“I think an experienced coach is their biggest weapon, because he’s well experienced, he knows the game well. For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We’re not going to take Iran lightly because they’re not going to take us lightly. So we have to go out with everything that we have. They have a very good coach and I’m sure they also have some quality players. We don’t know Iran very well, but we’ll see them on Monday,” Keshi told Fifa.com.
But the former Mali and Togo coach is banking on the mixture of experience and youth to lift his squad in a group that also has former world champions Argentina and debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Super Eagles trainer also hopes that his men can display tactical discipline and focus by sticking to their game-plan for the Mundial.
He blamed the lack of tactical discipline for Nigeria’s failure to win a World Cup game since 1998 in France.
“You can’t buy this sort of experience. I pray that Vincent Enyeama, [Joseph] Yobo, [John] Mikel Obi will bring all their experience. Youth is good, but if we can combine youth and experience that will be great for us.
“I think so. If you look at most of the African players that are playing now for the African teams – the five African teams that have qualified for the World Cup – most of them are playing in Europe, playing against the same players as European players, South American players. I think it’s the same thing.
“The only problem, the only difference I think is the lack of concentration and the lack of discipline on the field. Tactical discipline, that is. If we could pay attention to our game plan and concentrate, I think we could do it because this is the same team that we play against week in, week out in Europe. Nigeria haven’t won a World Cup game for a while. Why do you think that is? I mean, we’ve always had such great players. It’s because of a lack of tactical discipline and concentration,” said Keshi in an interview published on Fifa’s website on Saturday.
Keshi is the second Nigerian coach to lead the Super Eagles to a World Cup finals after Adegboye Onigbinde had the honour of being the first in 2002 in Korea/Japan.