Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr is hopeful his captain Mikel John Obi can play through the pain barrier when the Super Eagles face Argentina in their final group game against Argentina on Tuesday in St Petersburg.
Mikel, 31, needed treatment on his left arm in the dying moments of Nigeria’s group stage victory over Iceland in Volgograd last Friday. Although he has continued training with a cast on the arm, his participation will be subject to the match officials’ approval.
World’s football governing body FIFA on Sunday appointed respected referee Čuynet Çakir as the centre referee for the game and Rohr hinges the hopes of Mikel’s participation on the Turk.
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“The captain has a fracture of the fourth metal cap of the left hand,” disclosed Rohr at the pre-match press conference on Monday.
“It is not a big fracture, it’s a little one but he has to play with a cast. We arrived here yesterday (Sunday) and met immediately with our Doctor to visit the hospital and came back with a cast and I think he can play with that.
“We have to ask the referee to accept that but it is hard plastic so I think it is okay. Not so many pains and I think he will be ready,” he added.
Rohr’s team have particularly struggled to assert themselves in matches they have played without their inspirational captain in the past year but Rohr is confident his team have enough tactical solutions to whatsoever problems the Argentines can bring.
“It could be a very spectacular football game tomorrow. We have two organisations which is possible to play with my team. We can play 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 but we can also play 3-5-2 like we did in the friendly against Argentina in November,” posited Rohr.
Nigeria have faced Argentina four times previously in World Cup tournaments, losing by a single goal margin on each occasion in 1994, 2002, 2010 and in 2014 respectively.
Both sides still have chances of progressing to the next round from Group D behind Croatia but while a point might suffice for Nigeria, the Argentines must win to have any hopes of progressing.
Croatia are the group’s front runners with six points, Nigeria are second with three while Iceland and Argentina are third and last respectively with one point apiece.