Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr has revealed the basic game plan he has for his side’s last group match against Argentina on Tuesday, with a verdict that it has to be total attack in order to snatch victory against Nigeria’s boogie team.
Rohr said he is not thinking about settling for a draw, which could be enough to book a ticket if Croatia beat Iceland or also share the points, as he wants Nigeria’s first ever victory over the perennial World Cup group opponents.
He added that the Eagles must be on the attack against Argentina in Saint Petersburg and pick any slim chances that come their way against the two-time World Cup winners.
The Argies have been Nigeria’s perennial Nemesis at the FIFA World Cup. In five previous appearances, the Eagles have had to play Argentina in the group phase on four occasions. It was only in France 1998 that both teams ended up in different sections.
Argentina have won all four, but got the last of their two FIFA World Cup titles 32 years ago, such that current form and recent results do not present Lionel Messi and Co. as unbeatable.
In Russia, their opening 1-1 draw with Iceland was followed by a stunning 3-0 lashing by Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod, meaning the Eagles (who got their campaign back on track with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd) and the Albiceleste arrive the 67,000 –capacity Zenit Arena on Tuesday via different trajectories.
Eagles’ captain, John Mikel Obi, back-to-form defender Kenneth Omeruo, out of favour midfielder Eddy Ogenyi Onazi, latest match hero Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses were in the Nigerian squad that lost 2-3 to the Argies in Porto Alegre on 25th June 2014.
However, the recent factor will mean they all remember how the Eagles bashed La Abiceleste 4-2 in a friendly in Krasnodar, Russia seven months ago, 14th November 2017, which was also on a Tuesday.
That friendly encounter was the second time that Nigeria would score four goals against the Argies; after the first in a 4-1 spanking of the South Americans in a friendly in Abuja on the first day of June 2011, but Argentina have never scored four goals against Nigeria at senior level.
Omeruo and Onazi were in the Nigeria U17 team that defeated Argentina during the U17 World Cup hosted by Nigeria nine years ago, and Mikel, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi, who played pivotal roles in the win in Krasnodar, are likely to start for the Eagles on Tuesday.
The encounter at Zenit Arena will be Rohr’s 20th since taking charge two years ago, during which he has lost only two competitive matches.
It will also be Nigeria’s 21st match at the FIFA World Cup finals, having won six and drawn three in the previous 20.
However, Rohr is not looking at history as he prepares for Tuesday, the Franco-German gaffer simply says his side will have to take their fate in their owns hands and go all out for victory.
The Eagles returned to their Sanatorium Istochnik Hotel in Essentuki on Saturday, having no illusions that Tuesday’s match will be a piece of cake.
In the evening, they saw how reigning world champions Germany came from behind to defeat a Swedish team that had chances to win but apparently played for a draw in Sochi.
Nigeria have fewer days to prepare for the game against the South Americans than they had for the second match against Iceland following the opener against Croatia.
There were granted by the fixtures five days to get ready for Iceland after the loss to Croatia, but now have just three days to prepare for Argentina after the win over Iceland, BUT Rohr says sheer determination should give his side maximum points on Tuesday.
He declared: “Simply put, we must take even half chances, and be on the offensive as much as possible. Perhaps, a draw could be good to qualify, but we cannot think and play for a draw.
“Sometimes, when you play for a draw, you get punched in the face late in the day. It will be a tough game and we must go with a tough mentality from the start to the end.”
NIGERIA VS ARGENTINA IN HISTORY
25 June 1994: Nigeria 1 Argentina 2 – Boston, USA (FIFA World Cup)
10 Jan 1995: Argentina 0 Nigeria 0 – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (FIFA Confederations Cup)
3 Aug 1996: Nigeria 3 Argentina 2 – Georgia, USA (Olympics Final)
2 June 2002: Argentina 1 Nigeria 0 – Ibaraki, Japan (FIFA World Cup)
2 July 2005: Nigeria 1 Argentina 2 – Utrecht, Netherlands (FIFA U20 World Cup Final)
23 Aug 2008: Argentina 1 Nigeria 0 – Beijing, China (Olympics Final)
12 June 2010: Argentina 1 Nigeria 0 – Jo’burg, South Africa (FIFA World Cup)
1 June 2011: Nigeria 4 Argentina 1 – Abuja, Nigeria (Friendly)
6 Sept 2011: Argentina 3 Nigeria 1 – Dhaka, Bangladesh (Friendly)
25 June 2014: Nigeria 2 Argentina 3 – Porto Alegre, Brazil (FIFA World Cup)
14 Nov 2017: Argentina 2 Nigeria 4 – Krasnodar, Russia (Friendly)