John Obi Mikel's Russian Adventure
John Obi Mikel's Russian Adventure
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Cometh the hour cometh the man. If John Obi Mikel is nervous about carrying the hopes of a nation into the FIFA World Cup, he's not showing it. Does he know something the football-mad Nigerian public doesn't? Yes. A few words of Russian. Mikel has picked up some words from his Russian girlfriend, Olga, with whom he has twin girls. Could that help him at the World Cup?
Mini Fawaz, of Kwesé Sports, spoke to the ex-Chelsea star after the recent announcement that he is now the official brand ambassador of Kwesé Sports. In the interview Mikel played down his knowledge of Russian, "I only know a few words", but talked up Nigeria's chances at the showpiece event, "We have an aim to win the World Cup".
Could it really be possible? There's a sense of common purpose to this team and Mikel talks highly of the positive influence of manager Gernot Rohr, "We have a good manager who pays attention to details." He also feels that the Super Eagles are flying in formation, "You can see the way we play, we attack together, we defend together."
"Togetherness" is something Mikel preaches. "One thing I don’t like is a player who wants to play for himself." It’s fair to say that 186 million Nigerians would agree with that sentiment. The Super Eagles will need to play as a team if they are to beat Croatia in their World Cup opener.
Nigeria vs Croatia (Kwesé Free Sports, 16 June at 20:45 CAT)
With busy midfielders Modric and Rakitic to contend with, it will not be easy. As Mikel points out the first game of a tournament is the most important, "60 or 70 %" of the battle. And it's the defenders who Mikel has highlighted for special mention in holding the line against the dangerous Mandzukic. In that regard Balogun will be key. But Mikel is happy that the defenders are combining well and is not as worried as his countrymen about goalkeeper, feeling that Uzohu and Ezenwa will step up when it counts.
Mikel is clear on his preferred style of play, "We have to play our game - the Nigerian way -control the ball, pass it around, move it around and score goals. That’s what we do and we have to do it that way." That won’t be easy in Russia, with fit, aggressive teams like Croatia and Iceland to contend with. "We have to be ready to fight, because they are going to come to fight, tackle and push."
Nigeria vs Iceland (Kwesé Free Sports, 22 June at 16:45 CAT)
A little fighting spirit goes a long way in a World Cup and win or lose the fans will want to know that their team gave everything. Mikel knows this, "The World Cup is a very special, difficult tournament, where a little mistake can mean you’re out the tournament."
And a little mistake against Lionel Messi will almost certainly put you a goal down. There will be billions across the world eagerly tuning in to Nigeria's clash against Argentina. Hopefully by then Nigeria would have beaten Croatia and Iceland and be through to the round-of-16.
Nigeria vs Argentina (Kwesé Free Sports, 26 June at 19:45 CAT)
John Obi Mikel has served his country with pride and distinction, but he could cement his name in Nigerian folklore should the Super Eagles make a deep run at this year’s FIFA World Cup.
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