As Nigeria, Argentina light up Russia
By Monica Iheakam
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr has expressed displeasure over the absence of Argentina Captain, Lionel Messi in today’s international friendly in Krasnodar, Russia.
Messi was given the express permission by coach Jorge Sampoli to miss out in the high profile match between the three time African champions and the two-time world champions.
Rohr who spoke to the Russian press yesterday, described the decision of the former world best to shun the grade A match with the African giants as an insult to the fans and a minus to the beautiful round leather game.
‘’The lack of Messi is not a plus or a minus for us in purely football terms,” Rohr said to Sport Express.
“We have a game plan, which does not depend on him. Although, of course, to play against him would be interesting. Yes, and the fans in Krasnodar, too, probably insulting.
But the Argentines can be understood, they want to save their captain.’’
Messi has featured three times for the Argies in matches against the Super Eagles, scoring two goals while providing two assists.
Nigeria and Argentina played two high –profile friendly matches in 2011, the first in Abuja in June ending 4-1 in favour of the Super Eagles. The Albiceleste trumped the second encounter 3-1 in Dhaka, Bangladesh three months later.
Nigeria also meet with the South Americans in four of its previous five FIFA World Cup appearances, starting with a 1-2 defeat in Boston, USA in the African team’s debut in 1994.
Argentina won another group phase clash 1-0 in Ibaraki, Japan in 2002, won a similar encounter by the same margin in Johannesburg, South Africa eight years later and then edged the Eagles 3-2 in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2014.
Other famous encounters between both nations include two final matches of the Olympic Men’s Football Tournament – Nigeria edging it in 1996 in America and the Argies winning by the odd goal in China 12 years later.