“No Mercy for Messi” – Nigeria coach targets win over Argentina

Group D of the 2018 Fifa World Cup is widely open for Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland. With Croatia already qualified, the three nations have sights set on the group’s remaining slot before the 1/16 stage kicks off on June 30. 

When the Super Eagles face the Albicelestes on Tuesday at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, both sides will have their destiny in their own hands. Gernot Rohr’s charges need a victory(or a draw… and some Mathematics) against the desperate two-time World Champions, led by Lionel Messi.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner dreams of firmly grasping the World Cup title after missing out on 2014 to Germany. Nigeria, also eager to qualify, are perfectly in the way.

A group stage exit will be a shocking result for the star-studded South Americans but Rohr says that is their target for now.

“We love this great player, Messi, everybody loves him. The question is not if it is the last World Cup for him or not, the question is for us to qualify because we are not here to watch him play,” the 64-year-old gaffer said at the pre-match press conference.

“We are here to make a result, we are professionals. We are here to defend the colours of Nigeria and we know in football there is no mercy, no pity, everybody wants to win and we cannot make any gifts even if we like very much this player.”

The experienced German added that his lads must be clinical upfront and ignore a draw mentality.

“Simply put, we must take even half chances, and be on the offensive as much as possible. Perhaps, a draw could be good to qualify, but we cannot think and play for a draw.

“Sometimes, when you play for a draw, you get punched in the face late in the day. It will be a tough game and we must go with a tough mentality from the start to the end.”

Asked on the fitness of his players ahead of the epic encounter, Rohr revealed that skipper Jon Mikel Obi is still battling readiness due to an injury in their 2-0 victory over Iceland.

“The captain has a fracture of the third metacarpal of the left hand. It’s not so big fracture, it’s a little one, but he has to play with a cast.”

“We have to ask to the referee to accept, but it is hard plastic so I think it is ok. (He has) not so many pains and he will be ready I think.”

If the 2013 Afcon champions win, Gernot Rohr will be the fourth coach to qualify Nigeria from the group stage after Clemens Westerhof, Bora Milutinovic and Stephen Keshi in 1994, 1998 and 2014 respectively.

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