By Patrick Omorodion
When the 2010 World Cup draws were held in Cape Town, South Africa on December 4, 2009, Nigerians were divided in opinions when the Super Eagles were handed teams like Argentina, Greece and South Korea as Group B opponents.
Those who believe it is a tough draw for Nigeria recall that apart from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA where Nigeriaâ€™s U-23 team beat Argentina to win the football gold, Nigerian teams have never had it easy against the South Americans, adding that with Messiâ€™s form presently, the Eagles would be in trouble in South Africa.
Others believe that football is not an individual sport and therefore Messi alone cannot stop the Eagles. Former U-23 player who now features for the Eagles, Sani Kaita has also said that Messi could be stopped from causing any danger to the Eagles in South Africa.
Worries for Messi among Nigerians has been growing. First was when he was voted World Footballer of the year and most recently when he single handedly demolished Arsenal in a Champions League second leg tie at theÂ Nou Camp where he scored all Barcelona FC goals in their 4-1 victory.
Former Eagles coach, Austin Eguavoen who has been re-appointed, this time as one of the local assistants to technical adviser, Lars Lagerback, has told Nigerians not to lose sleep over Messi because the technical crew can always work out ways to check the Argentine.
Speaking on phone into a Metro FM radio sports programme monitored in Lagos, Eguavoen said, â€œMessi is an outstanding player no doubt and there is nothing anyone can do about it. But there is always a strategy to play him out in a game. WE are not going to play against Messi alone but the entire team.â€
Asked how far he and Lagerback have gone about getting the list of players to be invited to camp, the Edo-born gaffer said he was shocked by the Swedeâ€™s knowledge of Nigerian players.
â€œI was shocked by his knowledge of Nigerian players. He did a lot of research and came up with a list almost similar to the one I have drawn,â€ he said.
He added that he has done his work by picking players he feels are good enough to be invited for screening and hopes that those who fail to make the final list for the World Cup would accept it without grudges as they cannot go beyond the 23 players demanded by FIFA.
He would however not state categorically when the list already drawn would be made public, stressing that â€œthat depends on my boss (Lagerback) and the technical department (of the NFA).â€