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Ekong not fazed by Argentina’s pedigree


William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun before a World Cup qualifier against Cameroon in Yaounde

• Mikel returns, Uzoho may replace Ezenwa

Super Eagles’ defender, William Troost-Ekong says he is looking forward to tomorrow’s international friendly match against Argentina, saying it would bring out the best in the Nigerian team.Nigeria, which ended its 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying race with a 1-1 draw with Algeria in Constantine at the weekend, will face Argentina tomorrow in Krasnodar.

Speaking to on the challenges posed by the Argentines, who are among the teams tipped to win Russia 2018 next year, Ekong said the match would show the world the stuff the Eagles are made of.

Looking beyond tomorrow’s friendly, Troost-Ekong added he is not scared of a potential clash with some heavyweight teams, like Brazil and Germany, when Nigeria know their 2018 FIFA World Cup foes on December 1 during the draw in Zurich, Switzerland.He told “I am not scared to play against any team. But, of course, we hope for a favourable draw. We have to believe in ourselves just like we did in the qualifying campaign.


“Many doubted us winning a group with Cameroun and Algeria, and look where that got us! The experience garnered playing for the Super Eagles has been life-changing for me.

“Facing some of the best forwards in Africa, whilst having to perform and deliver for such a football-loving nation like Nigeria is a pressure that improves you as a player.“I enjoy being with the team and working with quality players. Playing alongside someone like Leon Balogun with his quality has definitely helped, but I would feel just comfortable playing next to anyone now.”

Meanwhile, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has revealed that team captain, John Obi Mikel and young goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho will play some part in tomorrow’s match.

Mikel, who did not feature in the game against Algeria, Uzoho and Russian-born Nigerian, Brian Idowu are among the likely new faces in the line up.“Mikel of course will come back. He didn’t play against Algeria because it was not a good moment for him coming from China. Playing two games in four days is a risk for him and we both agreed that was best for him to sit out.

“Against Argentina we will make some changes with two or three players. It will be interesting to see another goalkeeper. We have to work hard to be better,” he told a local website.

The Super Eagles arrived in Krasnodar, Southern Russia, aboard a chartered airplane that took off from Aeroport Constantine.Ex-Zenit St. Petersburg striker, Vladislav Bezborodov, who is now a referee, will take charge of the friendly and he will be assisted by compatriots, Valery Danchenko and Maxim Gavrilin, while the reserve referee is Kirill Levnikov.

The cheapest ticket for the high-profile friendly match will cost 600 Russian rubles (which is approximately N3,700), and spectators will pay 10,000 Russian rubles (equivalent of N61,500) for the most expensive match day ticket.

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William Troost-Ekong
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