Super Eagles manager Gernot Rorh will not deploy any special plans to stop Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi when both countries meet in a Group D preliminary game at the Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg on June 26.
“At this stage, there is no special plan. We don’t even know whether he will play. Of course, we all know him and we know of his quality. But we also played against some really good players in our qualification and were able to deal with them. We had Riyad Mahrez at Algeria, we played against Sadio Mane and Senegal in a friendly. We know how to organise our defence against top quality players. What I can tell you now already is that there will be no man-marking of Messi. We did this in the old days, even myself, but it’s not used too often these days. We will deal with Messi or any big player as a collective. But often you won’t be able to keep top players quiet over the whole 90 minutes,” he told David Kappel of South Africa’s Soccer Laduma in an interview.
Rorh also insisted that the Super Eagles will not lack on-the-pitch motivation because the team has enough inspirational figures with captain John Obi Mikel, vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi, Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa all playing critical roles for the younger players.
The German-born tactician maintains that the team is constituted by very young players who are willing to learn but they are backed by a sprinkle of experienced stars which is the real reason they have been on a good run of results.
“We have many young players, and everyone has a role to play in our team. But the most important leaders are our captain Mikel, the vice-captain Ogenyi Onazi, and Ahmed Musa also. We have a few very experienced players, such as our two central defenders William Troost-Ekong (Bursaspor, Turkey) and Leon Balogun (Mainz, Germany) who are also very important to us. We have players such as Victor Moses (Chelsea, England) and Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, England) – they are also very important for us,” he claimed.
Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi leads a cast of younger players who are also playing at the highest levels andexpected to be very important for the team at the World Cup.
Rorh attributed Nigeria’s smooth qualification for the World Cup with one game to spare to the morale and mental strenght of the group of players at his disposal.
He said: “Nigeria always had to wait until the last game of the qualification to qualify and this time we booked the ticket with one game to spare. What helped us in this qualification was our mental strength, we played as a unit and tactically solid. Our morale was also strong and we were able to deal with setbacks through injuries and ill players. We had some problems with our goalkeepers but were able to stabilise this position through hard work. We added a second goalkeeper coach to help us in that department. We have a good technical team that was able to deal with any issues.”
Nigeria are grouped alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland and will begin the World Cup with the first match against Croatia on June 16 at the Kaliningrad Stadium.
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