Nigeria are World Cup underdogs

Nigeria’s “underdog” football squad need to play together and not as individuals, captain John Mikel Obi said, with the team acknowledging they face a tough group stage at the World Cup in Russia next month.

“We have to make sure we play together as a team which is the most important thing; no individual players,” Obi told a media conference on Friday.

“No need to think that we are favourites, we’re still underdogs, so we have to go as underdogs in this World Cup and hopefully we can get good results,” he said.

The Super Eagles are ranked 47th by FIFA and face Argentina, ranked fifth, Croatia (18) and Iceland (22) in Group D.

"Honestly, people didn't expect us to qualify but we are off to Russia and now it's all about the rankings," the former Chelsea midfielder told BBC Sport.

"It takes the pressure off the shoulders of our young squad and we can go about our World Cup with humility, which is perfectly fine.

"Football is played on the pitch and not by rankings or permutations," Mikel Obi added.

Two-time world champions Argentina have beaten Nigeria four times at the World Cup, with the Super Eagles losing by the odd goal in each of the matches.

The South Americans edged Nigeria 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in 2002 and 2010, as well as the thrilling 3-2 result at the last World Cup tournament in Brazil.

But the three-time African champions are not short on confidence going into next month's tournament after defeating Argentina 4-2 in a friendly in Krasnodar last 

 

November and beating Poland away in March.

"We've got a blend of experience and a young squad playing without fear but with passion, which is good for us on the road to Russia," he added.

"We have friendlies against DR Congo (28 May), England (2 June) and Czech Republic (6 June) that will help us finalise our World Cup preparations.

“We have a very tough group,” said Nigeria’s coach, Gernot Rohr. “It will be a surprise to come out of this group for a lot of people but perhaps not for me because I 

 

believe in my team and I think that my team, even though it’s young, has enough experience.”

Obi added: “We want to do well, we want to do better than ever, we want to go one step further.”

"From the first game at the World Cup our target would be to keep progressing as a team and take it from there."

 

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