Nigeria open their World Cup in a revival of the 94 and 2002 show down against Argentina. Nwankwo Kanu, the Super Eagles’ striker, is hoping for a better outcome this time.
SUPER Eagles of Nigeria will today take on South American football power house, Argentina, in Group B opening match at Ellis Park with Nigeria skipper Nwankwo Kanu predicting victory.
Both teams have reported that they are free of injuries.
Officials have disclosed that Saturday’s cracker has been sold out.
Ellis Park Stadium is located in the centre of Johannesburg and has hosted many epic sporting events including the Final of the 2009 FIFA Confederations’ Cup between Brazil and the United States.
The ground was given a significant face-lift before the Confederations Cup finals and now seats 62,000 fans, increasing its capacity by almost nine per cent from the previous 57,000.
Said Kanu on Friday at the team hotel, “It is always very close anytime we play them at the top level. It is either 2-1 or 1-0. I expect that on Saturday, it would also be close, but victory will be Nigeria’s”, said a confident Kanu.
“Yes, it will be tough but I believe we can overcome on the day. It is the World Cup and things do happen.”
Kanu added: “Argentina has the big-name players and everyone respects them. We also acknowledge they are good and great players. But Argentina also has the same respect for us because they know the quality of our team and know that there is plenty that we can come up with at anytime.”
Kanu will be making his third World Cup appearance and said he will be a fulfilled man when his team go on to become the first African team to reach the last four of the World Cup.
“You know, African countries have always found it difficult at this top level. The best we’ve been able to achieve was quarter final by Cameroon in 1990 and by Senegal in 2002,” said the 33-year-old forward.
“If an African country, that is, Nigeria gets to the semi finals or final this year, I will be fulfilled.”
However, Kanu dismissed Argentina coach Diego Maradona’s attempt at pressuring the referee by saying Nigeria are in South Africa to ‘play football’.
On Friday, Maradona demanded that the officials protect his players by enforcing fair play.
But Kanu insisted that Nigeria were not rough. “We are here to play football. Maradona can say whatever he likes but they cannot change our team pattern or style. It won’t be a different match from the others.”
“We are battlers but we will play football. We have to do whatever we have to do to make sure we win. It is not going to be an easy game, we are not going to make it easy for them.”
Both countries have a history of football encounters in different tournaments, but today’s match will be the third meeting at the World Cup level.
The first was at USA 94 when Nigeria lost 1-2, while the second was at Korea/Japan 2002, which Nigeria lost 0-1.