Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho and John Obi Mikel are Nigeria’s most important players at the World Cup, former international defender Taribo West says.
The trio played an integral role for Nigeria as they qualified for this summer’s tournament by finishing top of their qualifying group ahead of Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria.
Nigeria will be appearing at their sixth World Cup, but have not made it beyond the last 16 in previous tournaments and have been drawn in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.
Gernot Rohr, whose squad is the youngest at the tournament, will see his team get their campaign underway on Saturday against Croatia, and West has pinpointed the players he feels will be key to the team’s chances in Russia.
“Players like Victor, Iheanacho, Obi Mikel have demonstrated their qualities,” West told Goal. “And the advantage of this selection is to have a very experienced coach in Gernot Rohr. He knows the highest level. We rely a lot on him, on his experience.
“It’s a team that does not have a lot of experienced players. We do not have big, big players. But I think Rohr has worked hard. Collectively, I find them very strong. It’s a young, fresh team.
“We have talent and are mentally strong. But I repeat, these players, apart from a few of them, need to acclimatise to the highest level. ‘European experience’ is missing in this squad.”
West was part of the Nigeria team which reached the second round of the 1998 World Cup before they were knocked out by Denmark in France.
Reflecting on Nigeria’s chances this time around, he added: “It’s a very difficult group.
“Croatia is a very high-level team at the moment. They have very strong players. Then Iceland, it is not a team that should be neglected. We saw what they did during the European Championship in France. And then there is Argentina which is a team used to playing in the biggest international competitions.
“I don’t think Nigeria will do miracles. After Victor Moses and Obi Mikel, which player does the team have? Collectively, physically, too, Nigeria is strong, but there are not many great players. There are just good players. I think they will try to play on those strengths.”