Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback has suggested that the opening World Cup Group B match between his team and Argentina on June 12 will be full of intrigue.
The Swede, who took the coaching job in March and has yet to take charge of any games with the team, says that Nigeria have as much talent as any of the other teams on parade at the World Cup and will only need to put a sound frame work in place in order to stop their more illustrious opponents.
“I see a team with a great deal of physical presence and individual skill. I’d go as far as to say that, man for man, Nigeria have more pure technical talent than most. I don’t think we need to worry about a lack of flair and match-winning ability,” Lagerback told Complete Sports.
The much awaited contest between Nigeria and Argentina is one of the highlights of the preliminary phase of the tournament and the Swede dispelled any anxiety, instead drawing on his experience against the Argentinians as Sweden coach in 2002 when his men held the star studded team to a draw.
“[The] first match of a tournament can condition the rest. Argentina have fantastic individuals, but I’m not fearful or intimidated by the thought of facing Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Aguero and all the others.
“I think I know how to stifle Argentina. Sweden did it at the 2002 World Cup. You couldn’t say we had the better players but we still drew 1-1 with them. Messi is extraordinary, but Argentina are not Barcelona.”
The gaffer does not underrate his other opponents in the group.
“I have a lot of respect for the work of Otto Rehhagel with Greece. They play tight, are spirited and are not in the habit of selling themselves short. South Korea’s strength is their energy and total commitment. You have to match them there,” Lagerback said.