Joseph Yobo has urged Nigeria to focus on their first game rather than dream of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia, backing them to hold their own against Argentina. The Super Eagles begin their Group D campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad, before taking on Iceland and then Lionel Messi and Co.
“It should be one game at a time,” Nigeria’s joint-most-capped player (101 appearances), who played at Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 before retiring, told News Agency of Nigeria. “You don’t go to the World Cup and be dreaming of playing in the Final when you are not done with what you have right before you first in the group stage.
“Win your first game first, and prepare for the next one without thinking of the third game. It should be one at a time. I don’t think it is good to lose the first game and begin to panic.
“If the Super Eagles can win the first game, the confidence and quality will build and Nigerians will see quality in them as the competition progresses.
Nigeria and Argentina will play their fifth World Cup encounter in St. Petersburg. Claudio Caniggia’s brace – he scored the first after a clever free-kick between Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta, and added a superb second – seized the South Americans a 2-1 win at USA 1994. Yobo then played in 1-0 losses in 2002 and 2010 and a Messi-inspired 3-2 defeat in 2014
However, without Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho overcame Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero 4-2 in a friendly last November.
“I played against Argentina in three World Cups,” said Yobo. “Maybe this is the time for Nigeria to record her first victory over the Albeceleste. If we don’t concede an early goal against Argentina, we should be able to get at least a draw.
“Croatia, Iceland… anything can happen. Croatia we know, but Iceland is the surprise package of Group D.
“I disagree with those worrying about the Super Eagles’ defence. What is important is experience. Yes, we may not have experienced senior players in that area but we have talented, fearless young players who can hold their own against any team. I really don’t think the defence is as bad as is being portrayed.”