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Onazi thanks Rohr, declares readiness for World Cup

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Soccer Football – International Friendly – Nigeria vs Serbia – The Hive Stadium, London, Britain – March 27, 2018 Nigeria’s Ogenyi Onazi Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Argentina battles different distractions

Nigeria’s Vice Captain, Ogenyi Onazi yesterday expressed his delight to be ‘100 per cent fit and ready for World Cup’ following Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr’s efforts that got him back to full fitness at his Turkish club, Trabzonspor.

He said, “I wish to thank coach Gernot Rohr for getting the Eagles physical trainer to come and work with me at my club. I am now 100 per cent fit and ready for the World Cup.”The defensive midfielder said Nigeria would go into the World Cup with a mentality to win their games and qualify from their tough group stage that has Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.

“It’s most important to get the first two games, but I believe if we won our games, we will go through, that’s the mentality we will take to the World Cup,” he said.Onazi, who has scored two goals in 20 appearances for Trabzonspor, said his immediate plan is to help his Turkish club clinch a Europa League spot.They are currently fifth on the table with 49 points from 32 matches.

Meanwhile, reports from Argentina indicate that all is not well with the Albiceleste.Much of the problem, according to reports, is the lack of quality defenders and the glut of strikers, who somehow do not fit into the Argentine system.Associated Press reported yesterday that Argentina boss, Jorge Sampaoli has been touring Europe trying to find solutions to problems all over the pitch, starting with what to do with Mauro Icardi.

It said Sampaoli has been doing his rounds once more in Europe, finalising plans and catching up with players expected to be in his World Cup squad but as ever there was one meeting that made the headlines above all others.

A rendezvous with Mauro Icardi was always going to spark contentious debate over whether the Inter captain should be included and if rumours were to be believed it was bad news for the prolific yet polemic centre-forward.

Icardi had appeared to have worked his way in once Sampaoli took control with a starting role in World Cup qualifying and the 25-year-old was even included in friendly squads prior to injury in November. However, reports suggest that Sampaoli has informed Icardi that unless Sergio Agüero is ruled out, there won’t be a place available in Russia.

Agüero continues recovery from knee surgery but is expected to be fit and so the Man City striker and Gonzalo Higuain will once more be Argentina’s first choice number nines.Whether Higuain and Agüero should be getting another shot ahead of Icardi is a valid argument and the Inter captain’s personal life will always create speculation but make no mistake, almost every nation in Russia would take Argentina’s so-called ‘chokers’ and for Sampaoli there are far more pressing issues.

There is a little over a month until Argentina kick off against Iceland in Moscow, just ten days or so until Sampaoli names his preliminary squad and a couple of warm-up friendlies and as of right now, La Albiceleste have no clear formation or structure and only a really, really good number ten to build around.Dependence on Lionel Messi has never been greater and so finding a balance to get the best of Argentina’s captain and not relying on moments of individual brilliance remains the key to success in Russia.

Sampaoli’s preferred back-three, pressing high up the pitch leaves a somewhat slow, immobile defence badly exposed and even a switch to a more familiar back four, still leaves questions surrounding who best partners Nicolás Otamendi, who provides the necessary attacking width while still performing defensive duties at full-back and who is Argentina’s best goalkeeper?

There is also the debate over who will be in the engine of the team and free Messi and balance the entire 11.There are also questions over the state of Lucas Biglia’s health and the usefulness of Mascherano, who was exposed by the Super Eagles during last year’s international friendly in Russia.Sampaoli has less than a month to name his team and Argentines believe that he has to get it right to help Messi win the one trophy he so longs for.


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