By Kayode Ogundare in Moscow:
Super Eagles Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr took out time to share his thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of Group D opponents Argentina, Croatia and Iceland and also hinted about what Nigeria must do to come out of the group in next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Completesportsnigeria.com brings you excerpts from the Kremlin Palace in here Moscow on Friday at the venue of the World Cup draw…
When we played and beat Argentina 4-2, they did not have Lionel Messi who’s arguably the best player in the world. So when we faced them at the World Cup, they’ll be stronger with him playing. On the other side, we scored four goals and he’s not going to play in defence so if we can score more goals against their defence than he will lead his team to score against us, then we will be fine. We showed that it was possible to win against Argentina but it will be a different ball game and we have to be strong both mentally and physically. It will also be a difficult game for them.
They have a lot of fans who usually act as their number 12 player. I saw them play at the European Championship in 2016 and the supporters were very massive as they got all the way to the quarter-finals. Their fans will be there and it will be like they’re playing at home.
It’s the first game and if we start well we can have a chance to go through. Croatia will be the most important game because they have technical quality and play very good football. I played with Bogdan at Hadjuk Split and I know that Croatian players are quick and technically very strong. At the moment, they are one of the best teams in Europe and beat Greece 4-1 in the play-offs so we have to be prepared and ready for them.
We have a young team and we are going to the World Cup to go and learn. Our team will be the youngest with average age under 25 years. When you’re ranked 50th in the world, you don’t say you’re going to the World Cup to beat everybody. We have to be humble. Difficult group but we will take our chances.
Nigeria’s first game is against Croatia on June 16 in Kaliningrad before facing debutants Iceland in Volgograd on June 22. The last game of the group will be against two-time World champions Argentina at the St Petersburg Stadium on June 26.