The much-hyped international friendly between Argentina and Nigeria suffered a heavy blow yesterday when it was announced that the biggest attraction in the game scheduled for Krasnodar, Russia on November 14, Lionel Messi, and Super Eagles’ striker, Odion Ighalo, will not play in the match.
According to Argentine website, www.mundoalbiceleste.com, Messi will play in the country’s first friendly match against Russia on November 11 in Moscow before flying back to Barcelona.
Messi did the same thing back in June when Jorge Sampaoli first took charge of the team. The Argentina captain played in the team’s 1-0 victory against Brazil in Australia while missing the match against Singapore a few days later.
Reports say the Barcelona ace’s decision to leave Russia earlier than his teammates may not be unconnected with the ISIS threat to his life and that of some other super stars.
The last time the two teams faced off was at the 2014 FIFA World Cup where the Albiceleste won 3-2 courtesy of two goals by Messi himself.
Another big attraction to the game, Odion Ighalo has also confirmed that he will miss Nigeria’s upcoming matches against Algeria and Argentina due to injury.
According to africanfootball.com, the Chanchung Yatai striker was on Monday named in the Super Eagles’ squad for their final 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Algeria on November 10, followed by a friendly against Argentina in Russia four days later.
However, Ighalo suffered a knock to his knee in Changchun’s latest match over the weekend and is set to be sidelined for approximately two weeks.
“I suffered a knee sprain (ligament) in our last game against Chongqing Dangdai Lifan FC on Sunday, I was able to finish the game because I thought it wasn’t serious, then I started feeling pains after the game,” Ighalo said.
“I will be out of action for 10-15 days, I won’t be able to play against Algeria and Argentina,” he said.
Ighalo has established himself as the leader of Nigeria’s attack through the World Cup qualifiers and scored the opening goal in the 4-0 win over Cameroon in September.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s former midfielder, Mutiu Adepoju has urged the Super Eagles to treat Argentina as equals during the game, saying that victory would lift the country in the FIFA global rankings.
Adepoju, who said that the Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr need to parade the best players for the tune up match, believes a good outing would boost Nigeria’s confidence at next year’s World Cup.
The former Racing Santander of Spain player opined that Argentina will approach the game with determination to win because they will want to test the type of opposition they would get in Russia next year.
He advised the coaches to use the World Cup qualifier against Algeria to prepare the team for the international friendly, which he sees as an opportunity for the country to exhibit its football prowess to the rest of the world.
“Playing against one of the best teams in the world is a great opportunity for Coach Rohr to understand the level of his progress with the Eagles.
The players need to work hard ahead of the tie by beating Algeria. This would put them in the right spirit to confront Argentina.
“The friendly is a grade A friendly that must be approached seriously. Any team is beatable. The Eagles should maintain their wining spirit,” he said.