A section of football enthusiasts in Nigeria has described the country’s 2018 World Cup group draw as “decent, but tricky”.
Nigeria was on Friday in Moscow drawn alongside Argentina in the preliminary stage for the fifth time in the Super Eagles’ six appearances at the FIFA World Cup finals.
The Super Eagles were drawn alongside Argentina, Iceland and Croatia in Group D.
Some of the football enthusiasts, who spoke in Abuja on Saturday, said the Super Eagles stood a good chance of making it out of the group. They, however, urged the national team to tread cautiously and not take any of their opponents for granted.
The Secretary-General, Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Tunde Popoola, said: “We were worried about getting one of the big names; I wanted a balanced group and I think we’ve got that. We have a decent group, but we must be cautious.
“Nothing will be easy, but it is a group in which we have a chance and so we must begin our work,” he said.
The Chairman, FCT Football Association, MusaTalle, said: “Argentina is really strong, but beatable just like we saw recently. There are places where we can hurt them.
“The other two teams, Croatia and Iceland, I‘m not too familiar with but I think it’s a good enough draw. Having said that, we have to work hard and not judge anybody.
“You can’t go to a World Cup and think that a particular opponent is easy. That would be a great mistake,” he said.
The Chairman, Akwa United Football Club, Paul Bassey, said: “It’s a very deceptive and treacherous group. “We have to accept that we are one of the favourites, but if you look at the group in a more detailed manner, you can see it’s a very difficult one.
“Argentina is naturally favourites, as I’ve always said. They are a great team, with the best player in history (Lionel Messi) and a host of top-level footballers.
“Our other opponents – Croatia and Iceland – are unpredictable sides. With them, you don’t know what you’re going to get and that makes them very dangerous as well,” he said.
An Assistant Coach with Nigeria’s U-20 Women’s national team, Falconets, Mansur Abdullahi, said: “I cannot say whether or not I am happy with the draw. The group is what it is.
“My emotions before and after the draw are the same. I smiled when we got Argentina because I kind of had them at the back of my mind. We beat them 4-2 in a friendly match in Russia and that makes this match a very mouth-watering and nervy encounter as both teams will be looking to prove a point.
“This is indeed a fine group. We don’t know what to expect from Croatia and Iceland, but all we know is that they are very disciplined and stubborn teams to have been able to make it to the World Cup finals.
“So, we must not take them for granted as they are the ‘dark horses’ in the group,” he said.
The Chairman, Nigeria Football Coaches Association, FCT Chapter, Godwin Bamigboye, on his part said: “I like the group, I think it’s an interesting one with very good teams that try to play.
“I think that can fit in well with our character. I think it suits us. Our first match against Croatia will be decisive. It looks difficult on paper, but nothing is impossible in football.
“We have to believe in ourselves and continue with the same dynamism. It’s going to be marvelous,” he said.
An ex-international and former Assistant Coach of the Flying Eagles, Nduka Ugbade, noted that Argentina were not going to be the only difficult opponents in the group, as the other two could turn out to be tough opponents as well.
“We must be prepared for Iceland; they are awkward opponents. Croatia have always had good individuals and this time they have formed a good group.
“It’s always good to have one entertaining opponent in your group and Argentina are one, without question. Our opponents will go there with few obligations and a lot of enthusiasm because the World Cup has given them a unique opportunity.
“It could have been better, but it could also have been worse. I think we can navigate our way into the knockout stages but it’s going to be tough. Argentina are the favourites of course, but I am confident we won’t roll over,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo took to his Twitter handle to express his opinion on the draw. He said: “I am happy that we are not going to play Brazil and Germany in the first round.
“With this draw, we have a good chance of qualifying from the group. It’s a tough group and we have to work really hard.”
Nigeria will take on Croatia on June 16 in Kaliningrad, before facing Iceland on June 22 in Volgograd, and Argentina on June 26 in St. Petersburg.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is scheduled to kick-off on June 14 and last until July 15.