John Mikel Obi celebrating with the Nigerian flag shortly after leading the Dream Team five to win the country's only medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

FIFA WORLD CUP

  •  Hopeful Nigeria will win double-header against Cameroon

Duro Ikhazuagbe

Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi has introduced a new dimension to why Nigeria must qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, stressing that he cannot afford to fail his Russian wife by not leading the three-time African champions to the Mundial.

The former Chelsea midfielder who switched to Tianjin Teda in the Chinese Super League last January, told FIFA.com yesterday that qualifying the Super Eagles for Russia 2018 is a task that must be accomplished for personal fulfillment.

“My wife is Russian and many of our relatives and friends are from Russia. They are all expecting Nigeria to qualify for the next World Cup Russia is hosting. I think they will kill me if I fail them,” joked the 30-year old Mikel who returned to the game after recuperating from the surgery he had several weeks ago.

Nigeria with six maximum points from two games is already four points clear of second-placed Cameroon and five ahead of Zambia and Algeria. The Super Eagles are billed to take on the Indomitable Lions in a must win double-header clashes in Uyo and Yaounde on September 1 and 4 respectively.

Mikel believes Eagles will triumphed over the current African champion, Cameroon.
“We are in a very good position in our group. We have two wins from two games, and in our last game we beat Algeria at home. We have a very good young team and the players play good football. If we can win our next match (at home to Cameroon September 1) it will edge us closer to qualification. I think we can go through,” observed the Eagles captain.

He however warned his colleagues in the Super Eagles and Nigerian football fans not to take the Lions for granted.
“As everyone knows, they (Cameroon) are a very good team. They are strong and they play with confidence. We must get ourselves well prepared for this game and try our best to get on top against them. It won’t be easy but these are important matches. If we win both, we will be almost there,” reasoned Mikel.

The former Blues midfielder is upbeat about their prospects of topping the table and claiming the section’s sole spot to Russia 2018.

Mikel has figured prominently in Nigeria’s qualifying campaign thus far. Notably, he scored one and set up for another in their most recent triumph: a 3-1 win over Algeria in November. However, injury sidelined him for over two months, causing concern for supporters of both club and country.

“I had maintained good form until this injury,” recalled Mikel. “So it was a shame. But this is part of the game and now I am focusing on recovery and on coming back stronger. I will do whatever I can to get fit to play for Teda and my national team.

“This Nigeria team look up to me for advice. My team-mates miss me and they need me. As the captain, I want to fulfil my role and help them with my experience.

“I am glad with what I have done,” he said. “But at the same time, I am not satisfied. I want to achieve more, so I must push harder. The next World Cup in Russia will be a fresh chance for us but, first, we have to make it there. Then the next challenge will be to make sure we enjoy an even better tournament in Russia than we did in Brazil,” concludes Mikel who led Dream Team six to win Nigeria’s solitary bronze medal of the Men’s football at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last year.