Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr has played down the significance of last November’s 4-2 international friendly win over Argentiona, claiming the result of that game will not matter when both countries lock horns in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Group D game in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 26.
In an interview with South Africa-based Soccer Laduma, the German-born tactician reckons the game does not confer any advantage on the Super Eagles going into the World Cup.
He said: “Remember, [Lionel] Messi didn’t play that game. So we are very cautious and have to analyse this great result in context. Argentina had played another friendly against Russia in Russia before facing us. Perhaps they were a bit tired – they also left Russia soon after our game. I think no one should overrate the result. I definitely won’t overrate it. It was definitely not to our advantage because Argentina will take us more seriously now.”
Nigeria had engaged Argentina in a friendly international on November 14, 2017 at the Stadion FK in Krasnodar, Russia and the Albiceleste raced into a two-nil first half lead through Ever Banega and Sergio Aguero but Kelechi Iheanacho halved the deficit with a free-kick before the interval. Further goals from debutant Brian Idowu and a brace from Alex Iwobi sealed a remarkable comeback victory for the Super Eagles.
Two weeks after, both countries were drawn into the same preliminary World Cup group at the FIFA World Cup draws last December for a fifth time in Nigeria’s six appearances at the competition.
Rorh is however assuring that the Super Eagles would get the best possible preparation for Argentina and the other group opponents Croatia and Iceland even though Nigeria is the least-ranked team in the group.
“Of course, I would have wanted an easier group. But it is what it is. Now we have this strong group. If you look at our FIFA ranking, we are only in 52nd position – the others are far ahead of us. I think they sit in position 14, eight and four. That means we are the underdogs. We were only in pot four in the draw, we mustn’t forget that. But we are an underdog with ambition and we want to get into the knockout stages, even though it will be very difficult. That’s our target,” he said.
Nigeria is expected to play friendly games against Poland and Serbia later this month as preparations for the World Cup intensify.