The four-time Ballon d'Or winner turned 27 on Tuesday, but the Nigeria boss is determined to put a spanner in the works of his celebrations when the two sides clash on WednesdayNigeria coach Stephen Keshi has sent Lionel Messi a message of goodwill but insists he is determined to bring a halt to the Argentina star's birthday celebrations.
The Super Eagles need just a point on Wednesday to reach the second round for the first time in 16 years, and they could still qualify with a defeat should Iran fail to beat Bosnia in the other Group F encounter.
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“My team and I want to wish him a very happy birthday. We want to wish him a healthy long life, all his heart’s desires,” Keshi said.
“If there is a way to stop him, it is something that I will share with my players and coaches.”
Nigeria could be boosted by the support of thousands of Brazil fans determined to see arch-rivals Argentina beaten, and Keshi admits he would be thankful for any additional support.
“We’re here to play, if we have the support of the Brazilians we will appreciate it. But we are not looking at that, we are just here to win our game,” he told journalists.
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama also praised the player but says that Messi isn't the only threat across Argentina's star-studded frontline.
“He’s one of the best players in the world and has made a lot of progress since the last time we met,” Enyeama said.
“It might not be a game between him and me, it’s going to be Nigeria against Argentina. There are other players like [Sergio] Aguero and [Angel] Di Maria.
“I watch tapes of opponents, I have done that. We have studied their tapes, their strengths and weaknesses.”
Nigeria are waiting to see if defender Godfrey Oboabona is fit enough after he returned to training having picked up an injury against Iran.