By Toni Ubani, in South Africa
Nigeria stricker, Obafemi Martins insists his team must not fall into the trap of concentrating all their efforts on stopping the genius of Lionel Messi.
The Super Eagles open their 2010 FIFA World Cupâ„¢ Group B campaign tomorrow against two-time champions Argentina, who are led by Barcelona superstar Messi. The quality of Messi will clearly be something Nigeria, playing their first competitive game under Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, cannot ignore, but Wolfsburg forward Martins has warned his team-mates not to ignore his strong supporting cast.
The former Newcastle man said: â€œPeople talk a lot about Messi, forgetting that there are other very good players in the Argentinian team, such as Carlos Tevez and Diego Milito. Itâ€™s a team game and we also have our own stars for the day. It is an important match for all of us, the players and the technical crew.â€
Martinsâ€™ team-mate Taye Taiwo has revenge on his mind after losing to an Argentina side inspired by Messi in the final of the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The Marseille full-back told kickoff.com: â€œI was not happy that we lost that day in Utrecht against Argentina because we worked so hard. But for sure, this is payback time.
â€œWe know Messi is a good player and we canâ€™t allow him to roam round the park just like that. But we also have our great players. Theyâ€™ve got a couple of great players and weâ€™ve also got a couple of great players.â€
One man Nigeria will be missing tomorrow is Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel after he was unable to recover in time for the tournament from knee surgery. Otherwise, the team medical staff reported a clean bill of health after training yesterday at their base in Richards Bay near Durban before making their way to Johannesburg today for the match at Ellis Park.
The match is a sell-out and Nigeria are sure to have good support at the stadium, with a number of Nigerians living in South Africa. Taiwo Ogunjobi, a member of the Nigerian Football Federationâ€™s executive committee, said: â€œThe players are feeling at home, with the large population of Nigerians here.
When we played North Korea in the friendly match at Tembisa on Sunday, it was like we were playing at home.
There were more people outside the stadium than inside. It is encouraging as far as the players are concerned.
â€œEven South Africans are ready to support our team. It is an African World Cup. And I know so many people will still come from Nigeria to support the Super Eagles at this competition.â€