- Amuneke:Friendly’ll test Nigeria’s readiness for W/Cup
The only time the Super Eagles beat Argentina, talismanic Lionel Messi was unavailable for La Albiceleste and the Barcelona star won’t be around again when the two sides meet today in a friendly game in Russia, providing an opportunity for the West Africans to seal their second victory over the South Americans. Messi, who featured in Argentines’ 1-0 win over Russia at the weekend, has been excused from the Nigeria tie by coach Jorge Sampaoli.
The three-time African champions can steal the show in Barca star’s absence just like they did when the two sides first met in a friendly match in Abuja on June 1, 2011 as Nigeria handed a 4-1 defeat to Argentina without Messi. Although the story changed when the forward returned to the team’ s starting line up in another friendly match September same year in Dhaka, Bangladesh as his magic was too much for the Eagles.
The match ended 3-1 in favour of the South Americans. Of the football’s super powers, the eight countries that have won the World Cup, Argentina is the team Nigeria has met most often. Today clash in Krasnodar in Russia will be the eighth time both team will meet.
Five of the previous matches were competitive and Nigeria escaping defeat only once. Eagles have lost all their competitive matches against the Argentines but the two friendlies ended in one victory apiece. The Eagles will enter the tie high on confidence after they completed their World Cup qualifying series without a loss following a 1-1 draw in Algeria on Friday.
They will welcome Captain Mikel Obi who was rested for the game against Algeria. The former Chelsea midfielder could make his 80th appearance for the country to become the fifth player to reach that milestone. Reports from Argentina’s camp suggested coach Sampaoli would field a weaker side with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria unlikely to start.
Nigeria coach is excited about the friendly and he insisted the venue of the clash was also perfect for Eagles’ preparation for the World Cup. Ex-international Emmanuel Amuneke has urged the Eagles to take the match seriously, saying the tie will give an idea about the side ahead of the World Cup.
“It is one match the Super Eagles should pay attention to all its details because aside national pride, it is one game that gives you a clear picture of what to expect during the World Cup in Russia next year,”
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