Nigeria captain Mikel Obi says the Super Eagles will not focus their attention on stopping Croatia stars Lukas Modric and Ivan Rakitic but will play for victory in the Russia 2018 World Cup opener in Kaliningrad on Saturday.
The Spain-based duo are expected to play with Italy-based duo Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic to tear down the Nigerian defence, but Mikel says the Eagles are not losing sleep over the Croatia stars.
“I don’t want to talk about any player but it will be a game of 11 versus 11,” the China-based midfielder told reporters ahead of the clash on Friday.
“We are going to play the game like a cup final because we want to win our first match in the tournament. It’s very important to win the first match and we want achieve that, we want to start well.”
The 2012 UEFA Champions League winner is backing young Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Francis Uzoho to do a good job against Croatia and in subsequent encounters in the competition.
Mikel said, “Yes, he’s a young keeper but he has experience. We have been talking to him. I have been talking to him personally. We try not to talk to him too much because we don’t want to confuse him. We hope he’s going to have a great tournament.”
The former Chelsea star added, “We are united. There’s no quarrel among us; the camp is quiet.”
The veteran player is amazed by the support from Russian fans, saying it has boosted the confidence of the three-time African champions ahead of today’s match.
He said,Russain fans have been amazing. I don’t know why they are always nice to Nigerian teams. Maybe because my girlfriend is a Russian. The support will help the young players play better.”
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr expressed the team’s readiness for the clash, saying they should not be judged on the defeats they suffered in the friendlies.