RUSSIA 2018 WORLD
- America’s CBS lists Nigeria/Argentina match among top 10
From Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Former Wimbledon striker, John Fashanu has issued a chilling warning to Nigeria as the countdown to next yearâ€™s World Cup begins to gather pace.
His warning was in the wake of the draw that pitted Nigeria in Group D alongside Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.
While assessing the teams, the former England international tagged Iceland as the bogey team because of their nondescript international profile.
In an exclusive chat with THISDAY, Fashanu said that World Cup first timers, Iceland, which population is roughly 400,000 is the team Nigeria should fear because of the little information about them.
â€œI am quite happy to be in the same group with Argentina because when we play Argentina, we raise our game. I donâ€™t want to be in the same group with Iceland being the first time they qualified for a World Cup. That is a bogey team- a team nobody knows anything about. They are the team with nothing to lose, everything to gain. They the smoking guns for the Super Eagles,â€ Fashanu warned.
Three-time Africa champions Nigeria, will be pitted against the Icelanders in Volgograd on June 22, 2018 after igniting their campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad on June 16before playing their final group match against Argentina in St Petersburg on June 26.
Though the Croats, who finished third at France 98, look fearsome with the likes Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic available for selection, Fashanu considered them an inconsistent team.
While conceding that the Europeans are brilliant bunch of players, Fashanu insisted same cant be said about Iceland who has Gylfi Sigurdsson of Everton as their key player.
â€œIt is not that we donâ€™t know Croatia which is always a middle of the road team. The Croats are never brilliant and never terrible. They might scare you but they are not a team that has consistency. The one you are going to worry about is Iceland, not Argentina, even though Argentina have Lionel Messi, arguably one of the best players in the worldâ€™â€™.
Fashanu advised the Nigeria Football Federation to organise pre-World Cup warm up matches against teams whose style is similar to that of Argentina and Brazil and not the English type of football.
â€œHaving said all this, I will warn that you donâ€™t underestimate the Super Eagles. We have the players who are equally excellent and brilliant that is why I say to you donâ€™t look to where we know, look to where we donâ€™t knowâ€”that is the black hole, the one that will come out and surprise us,” he concludes.
In a related development, Americaâ€™s commercial broadcast television network, CBS has listed Nigeria against Argentina last group D match as one of the top10 matches the sporting world should watch out for at the group stage of Russia 2018.
The match is slated for June 26 in Saint Petersburg incidentally, the June 26 match comes a day after the 24th anniversary of their first encounter in Boston at the USA â€™94.
According to the analysis by the CBS the Super Eagles just crushed Argentina 4-2 in a friendly last month, â€œbut that wasnâ€™t a game that tells us much. Itâ€™s still fun when they get togetherâ€.
Their match will be fifth time out of six World Cups that they have been in the same group. Vengeance, on both sides, will no doubt be the recurring thought.
For Nigeria, it will be an occasion to avenge the earlier four defeats inflicted on previous squads of the Super Eagles who lost all the encounters by the odd goal.
For Argentina, it will also be a time to revenge on the humiliating 4-2 defeat of last month in a friendly tie in Krasnodar, Russia.
The other nine matches listed by the CBS as top group games are host, Russia against Saudi Arabia which is the opening match of the tournament, Portugal versus Spain in group B on June 15th just as Argentina against Iceland was listed.
The Mexico and the defending champion, Germany match on June 17 is seen as a high profile group stage tie just as Belgium and Panama encounter on June 18th and the Belgium and England match on the 28th of June were was also listed among the rest.