By Jacob Ajom
Atlanta â€˜96 Olympic hero and former African player of the year, VictorÂ Ikpeba is unfazed by the exploits of Argentina prodigy, Lionel Messi and his national team mates in various leagues. He is of the opinion that the Barcelona hit manâ€™s form may not translate to an Argentina victory over Nigeria at the South Africa 2010 World Cup.
Speaking to Sports Vanguard after the media parley between the Lagos State Commissioner for Sports, Prince Demola Adeniji Adele and Sports Editors last week, Ikpeba said Nigeria can beat Argentina in South Africa.
â€œWe can beat Argentina. Weâ€™ve met twice at the global level and it has been very close,â€ Ikpeba said, adding that what was needed was â€œgood selection and a good bench.â€
Continuing, the former Prince of Monaco, as he was fondly called by fans in his active days remarked, â€œArgentina respect us because they are no strangers to Nigeria.â€
Ikpeba believes with the right attitude, the Nigerian national team could surpass the African World Cup record set by Cameroun who got to the quarter final at Italia â€˜90.
â€œI have confidence in the new technical manager of the Eagles, Lars Lagerback. â€œHe is bringing a fresh breath into the Eagles camp by throwing it open. There are no anointed players or those you call sacred cows. Everybody have equal opportunity once you are good,â€ Ikpeba said.
He was particularly excited that the new Eagles coach had placed a lot of emphasis on players who are active and playing regularly for their clubs because in his words, â€œthose playing regularly for their clubs should have a chance of playing for the national team.â€
Victor Ikpeba wa in the Eaglesâ€™ squad that won the Atlanta â€˜96 Olympic gold medal at the expense of Argentina after dispensing with the South American giants, Brazil in the semi final.
Before then, at the USA â€˜94 World Cup, Nigeria lost narrowly to Argentina in a group match.
At the FIFA 2005 Junior World Cup in Holland and the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Nigera lost in both finals(2-0 and 1-0 respectively)Â to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina.