2018 WORLD CUP
*Garba Lawal warns Eagles to beware of Croatia, Iceland
Nigeria and Arsenal forward, Alex Iwobi, is looking forward to Super Eagles repeating the sensational defeat of South America power-house, Argentina, when both countries meet in their group stage game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Last November in Krasnodar, Russia, the three-time African champions pulled a stunning 4-2 defeat of Argentina in an international friendly.
Iwobi, 21, who scored a brace in that game, similarly got the winning goal that qualified Nigeria for the World Cup against Zambia in Uyo last October.
Although Nigeria’s victory was attributed to the absence of Argentina’s inspirational forward, Lionel Messi, Iwobi told BBC yesterday that Eagles are capable of an encore in summer.
“Argentina were missing their star man (Lionel) Messi, but we were also missing some of our players (for the friendly). We are confident we can repeat that at the World Cup,” the Arsenal forward said in the interview monitored in Lagos.
The Arsenal player who is unfazed by the star-studded squad the Albiceleste will parade at the Mundial restated the resolve of Eagles not just going to Russia to make up the number.
“We were unbeaten in the World Cup qualifiers and we are confident and have young talent, who want to prove themselves any time they are on the pitch,” observed Iwobi.
However, despite Iwobi’s optimism, a former Super Eagles utility player, Garba Lawal, warned at the weekend that Croatia and Iceland ought to be the major worries of Nigerians.
Lawal who is now the coach of a National League side owned by a former Sports Minister, Sumaila Sambawa, told THISDAY that Croatia in particular looks more dangerous to him.
“Croatia does not look cheap as some Nigerians are thinking. They have some of the best players in Europe like Luka Modric and his compatriot in Real Madrid like Mateo Kovacic, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren, Everton’s Nikola Vlasic and several others who have made their marks in the Bundesliga and the Italian Serie A,” stressed Lawal fondly called Chindo.
He said that instead of focusing mainly on Argentina, “Our players and coaches should be thinking of what to make of Croatia that is our first game in Russia. We all know what first matches mean at the World Cup. We need to get it right with the first game for us to have the hope of progressing from the group to the knock out phase.”
Lawal also admitted that the present crop of players in the Super Eagles may not have the experience of previous Nigerian senior teams but sure have the capacity to do well if properly harnessed.
“It is wrong to compare past and present generation of Nigerian players because they present different form and characters. I however believe that the present generation can achieve greatness with the kind of enthusiasm they have shown since the qualifying round of matches. They however need to be wary of Croatia and Iceland and not put all their attention on Argentina,” concludes the ex-international.