INTERVIEW – Mikel: Young Eagles Players Will Win For Nigeria In Four Years

INTERVIEW – Mikel: Young Eagles Players Will Win For Nigeria In Four Years

Super Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi, has been harping on the great success the team will become at the time of the next FIFA World Cup four years from now. And in this interview granted at the Krestovsky Stadium Saint Petersburg Russia on Tuesday June 26 2018 after the Super Eagles lost 2-1 to La Albiceleste of Argentina to exit the 2018 World Cup, Mikel also shares what he holds as positive takeaways from the match. By

How would you appraise the performance of the Super Eagles against Argentina?


It’s sad to go out of the World Cup this way. We did so well, we gave everything in the game, but just two lapses and we conceded the goals. I think that the positive thing we should take out from this match is that we did very well – we did all we could do. We were so close to going through but it didn’t happen.

I hope that in the next four years this great team, these young players can do much better.

Zenith Ziva

What do you say of Messi’s presence in the match and the difference it made for Argentina?

I think what an amazing footballer he is. I think that he was pretty much quiet throughout the game, but then he had his moments.

We did exactly what we wanted to do in the match but Argentina is a great team, with great players. We had a lion share of the game. It’s just a shame to go out this way.

What do you think about referee’s performance in the match, especially his decision not to award a second penalty to Nigeria after Rojo’ s header bounced off his own arm?

I think it should have been the second penalty against Argentina. I believe that was a penalty. I don’t understand how it wasn’t a penalty. I asked the referee why he didn’t award us the penalty. I asked him ‘did the ball touch his hand? He said yes, and I asked him again, ‘so why didn’t you give a penalty? He said that he didn’t know. You don’t know? You should know because you’re the referee. You should give the penalty.

This is a game we could have won. We could have scored a second penalty goal. But unfortunately, it has happened. But the VAR? This is what happens.

What do you think about the VAR system?

(Laughs) Arŕrrrgh, I don’t want to make comment about it. Big country, I don’t know. Small country? I don’t want to go there.

You think it has something do do with being a small country?

I have nothing to say about it. You can do that mathematics yourself. That’s all I can say.

How do feel personaĺly about losing to Messi again?

It’s not a competition between me and Messi. I will say we came close to getting a win agaist Argentina at the World Cup, but it didn’t happen in the end. It would have been amazing for us as a team if we had won and advanced to the next round. I should say that luck wasn’t on our side and was on Argentina’s side, and we couldn’t go through.

What do you think of Argentina’s chances of going far in the tournament?

I think they have a good team. They’re going to do well. They’ve now gone through the First Round and they will feel relieved and play better football. I think they are a great side.

We managed to keep them quiet. We managed to do our job in the game. I’m so proud of the boys’ performance against Argentina. The young players have done very well. Congratulations to the team. We just have to kèep going.

What would you say of Ighalo’s contribution in the game?

Ighalo is an amazing striker and a great guy. He is an experienced player. He knows he can lift himself up with great play. Yes, he missed one or two chances, but he actually did well when he came on. He looked threatening. He knows how to deal with the situations.

How long more will your fans and Nigeria supporters see you playing for the national team?

(laughs) I don’t know. I will always serve my country. We will see what happens.

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  • Nicolsen 3 years ago

    Only a gullible fool here would believe ur fabricated statement.
    You guys are loosers.. watch and learn frm a more talented Senegal tean.

  • Sunnyb 3 years ago

    Obi should be quiet, who are  the young players he was referring to?uncle Iheanacho, Mr Uzoho, Indidi is 28 yrs old, youngsters that  couldn’t last ninety minutes. I’m done with perennial losers

  • Omo9ja 3 years ago

    This coach knew that Ighalo can not score but he intentionally brought him in the match and Ighalo finished his nation his country hope!!! We had other good players on the bench this coach called coach Rohr favoured his people because Africa will never learnt their lessons from these people.

    I know what I’m talking about and it was very cleared that Racism still happening everywhere. I knew it everyone us including Mikel knew that very well, that he refused to nailed it.

    “What do you think about the VAR system?

    (Laughs) Arŕrrrgh, I don’t want to make comment about it. Big country, I don’t know. Small country? I don’t want to go there.

    You think it has something do do with being a small country”?

    NOTE: Im going to be very happy, in fact, I will celebrate it here when they announced that they fired have coach Rohr. I’m not a such person but this man called Mr. Rohr intentionally kicked us out of this world cup. God forgive me for my reaction because I’m not a bad person. Therefore, Mr. Rohr must go. God bless us all. God bless Nigeria!!!

    • You are spot on. I gave Rohr my support all through, hoping he will come different. But started sensing he is not really identifying with nigeria which is KEY at world cup stage, reason Messi who sees himself more of spanish than Argentine is not giving his best. Rohr,not being able to get any of the nigeria born german players to represent nigeria should tell any right thinking nigerian where Rohr’s loyalty lies. ITS TIME TO RETURN TO OUR INDIGENOUS COACHES WHETHER GOOD OR BAD, WE MUST STICK WITH THEM AND BE PATIENT WHILE THEY DEVELOPE WITH OUR NATIONAL TEAMS, afterall where are we today with all the foreign egg head coaches? Truth is the white people dont really like us especially nigerians, dont get decieved by their smiles or nice words.That I have come to see while leaving in this foreign land for years

  • Omo9ja 3 years ago

    This coach knew that Ighalo can’t not score but he intentionally brought him in the match and Ighalo finished his nation his country hope!!! We had other good players on the bench this coach called coach Rohr favoured his people because Africa will never learnt their lessons from these people.

    I know what I’m talking about and it was very cleared that Racism still happening everywhere. I knew it everyone us including Mikel knew that very well, that he refused to nailed it.

    “What do you think about the VAR system?

    (Laughs) Arŕrrrgh, I don’t want to make comment about it. Big country, I don’t know. Small country? I don’t want to go there.

    You think it has something do do with being a small country”?

    NOTE: Im going to be very happy, in fact, I will celebrate it here when they announced that they fired have coach Rohr. I’m not a such person but this man called Mr. Rohr intentionally kicked us out of this world cup. God forgive me for my reaction because I’m not a bad person. Therefore, Mr. Rohr must go. God bless us all. God bless Nigeria!!!

  • Overrated….

  • Ayphillydegreat 3 years ago

    Yes they’re a young team. Unfortunately we lost to a more experienced Argentina side. This is their first major tournament after the Guardiola of Africa abandoned them and we missed the last two AFCON. Anyone who thinks this team did not give it’s best in Russia should go and get their heads checked. All we need is an intimidating striker and a very solid ball juggler, then we will have a great team in the near future. #FLY LIKE AN EAGLE INTO THE FUTURE#

  • I remember the great Pele predicting that an African team will win the World Cup before year 2000….

  • Thanks for your predictions Mikel and hard work in this tournament despite the outcome.

    Hope you remember that the Super Eagles still have no navigation qualification for the next world cup before even attempting to overcome the World Cup group stages.

    Do you think other African team will just lay down, die and give us the World Cup ticket on platter of gold or do you think that the Nwakalis are head and shoulder above all other African players out there so much so that World Cup qualification for Nigeria will be a mere formality; just a breeze?

    In any event, it is time to put the past behind us and look to the future.

    To many the future looks bright, to some, it looks bleak, and to others like myself, it is “let’s wait and see” , I won’t allow myself be burnt again.

  • Bestsports. 3 years ago

    We Nigeria FANS are rooting for siasia and AMUNIKE combination. Our coach Rohr is only but niger and gabon countries small mentality manager.

    Forgive IGHALO pls! Dude has apologised! Blame Coach Rohr! He killed us against CROATIA and Argentina with wrong tactics and organisation and choice of players!
    Against Argentina Rohr failed to park the bus when it’s 5mins left you quickly freshen up the TEAM with defensive substitutions but he was clueless!
    John ogu should have been brought in together with awazien but as usual waited until too late. Our coach is old. Pls its time siasia is properly brought on BOARD. Siasia na tournament coach!
    He knows all our PLAYERS everywhere and their QUALITY.
    Pls read on…

    The heartache, the talking points, the bitter disappointment that our Eagles are out of the World Cup after so much hope that this is the set that will top the other sets.

    If there’s anything we can take from this World Cup disappointment, it’s that we need to start planning for the future and that future and planning has to start now, has to start with the current U15s, U17s and U20s.

    This article isn’t just aimed at Nigeria, it’s aimed at our continent, as I write only Senegal have a hope of going to the next round as the remaining four African countries are already out.

    This is a reference for us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves why we never succeed at major tournaments over the age of 17.

    Why our continent and country keeps doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

    What truly do Europeans, South Americans and Asians do differently from us that makes them successful at World Cups?

    They build from the ground up, don’t take shortcuts at youth levels and they definitely don’t cheat with over aged players we’ve always done because they understand that building a successful football program isn’t about winning the U17s at all, it’s about developing player from the U13s and up, making sure those players are training at clubs that emphasizes technique, getting playing time at clubs in Europe.

    No disrespect to Turkey or China but we need players playing at leagues where technique will be developed.

    Not many graduates of our U17s get to play in Europe and most that do never have old, long careers in Europe and that’s not their fault- often, bad agents pushing them towards big clubs for big fees and forgetting that these players don’t have the foundation that European layers have.

    They don’t have coaches teaching them and engraining in their DNA the fundamentals of modern world football, after these players make a splash at the U17 World Cups, they get loaned out indefinitely until they fizzle out and end up in Turkey, Cyprus, Greece or stop all together.

    These are facts, pull up the roster of our last five U17 squads with a simple google search and Wikipedia.

    How many of those players are currently playing first team football in top leagues in Europe? How many have had sustained careers in Europe since their move ?

    There lies our issue, it starts from the ground, what are our kids being taught vs what are European kids being taught.

    Who is doing the teaching and what do they know from training and experience about the fundamentals of football and there would lie the answer.

    At the NFF, we actually have a true lover of grassroots football in Barrister Akinwunmi who by all accounts is working hard to change our football culture – we can already see with what he did with the U15s in friendlies in Morocco- win, lose or draw- played with young players- that’s vision, that’s looking at the long term because experiences like that for truly young players (real U15s) is a down payment on the future.

    Then this same visionary espoused view of reading a synergy from U13s all the way up to the senior National team with the NFF/Zenith Bank Future Eagles Championship.

    That is the foundation to future World Cup successes, not using over aged player to get short term gains and suffer for it in the future.

    Then this same visionary in barrister Akinwunmi also captured one of the most exciting players young players in Lateef Omidiji Jr, a player already in a position in Europe hat many senior players dream of, a player already touted by many scouts and club directors in Europe as one of the future of football.

    For all our criticisms of the NFF, the players, the coach, my people, we need to look at ourselves. This article might offend some, might bother some but if that is the price for starting a real conversation that could save us heartaches in the future then so be it.

    We are all Africans, it’s time to have a frank conversation with ourselves for the befit of our future, for the benefit of our children, for the benefit of a sport that we all love, for the benefit of our continents inhabitants.

    Football is more than a sport here on our continent, football is a religion here, it’s a release from all the pressures of living here, it’s an escape from our failed governments, it’s a stress reliever and dare I say- football is a part of our identity.

    We can talk about the poor officiating and bias and those are valid conversations but if we don’t get our house in order, we will continue the same cycle of failure, disappointment and talking points which his hire a coach, go to the Nations Cup, lose, get rid of hosts of players who came through our U17s overaged and were never taught basic foundation and principles and to be honest are not up to there with the best in the world technically or tactically.

    We fire a coach, hire another for the World Cup, qualify and do it all over again. Such has been our cycle as far back as I can remember.

    The money we’ve spent on this gallant set of super Eagles, imagine investing some in our youth football just 5% of it, the return will be immense.

    It means more international friendlies (even if it’s African countries and some European tournaments) for our U13s, U15s and U17s, it means potentially unearthing true aged players now that can be wildcards and intriguing possibilities for the World Cup in Qatar 2022.

    It means having a National U16 squad to be a synergy to our U17s so the pressure to be older, bigger, stronger and faster as criteria for the U17s is no longer there, it means hiring a coach for our U13s, U15s and U17s that is qualified, teach players technique, tactics and laying a foundation for the future.

    Investing 5% of the money we just spent on the Eagles on our youth means developing a playing style and template early and implanting it in players early so that when we get to the senior levels, there will be no arguments about formation or style, the world will see, identify and know Nigerian Football.

    It means buying a bone scan machine for our youth program and not just relying on ‘birth certificates and passports or in some cases size and what they look like so that we can truly cleanse our youth programs and start from the ground up.

    I know it isn’t an easy task in a country where we want results right away, where we need to win because we believe we are Brazil, well newsflash we are not, we are Nigeria with a lot of talent at home and abroad but a lot of cracks in or foundation.

    Brazilian kids, name any Brazilian star in Europe, all come through real academies in Brazil and nurtured through real academies and real coaches who know their stuff,.

    The coaches are in tune with world football, know what to teach, how to teach and who to teach by identifying true talent, not the coaches we have parading themselves around who cannot technically and tactically outwit European coaches.

    Let’s identify good coaches at grassroots, stop the north, south politics, find coaches that are passionate about coaching, accept that they are limited in knowledge, accept responsibility that it’s not their fault its ours, it’s the system we’ve created and accepted, send those coaches on training courses abroad, assign them to our U13s.

    Invest in them and send them overseas to train, earn UEFA licenses, have them be a part of our U13s, U15s and U17s who should now regularly be playing African, European, American, South American and Asian friendlies and tournaments (all these countries would love to play teams from Nigeria because of our dominance at youth levels) and eventually these coaches would be the future handlers of our youth and senior teams because of the training investment and international experience they’ll have.

    In doing so, it requires patience from the public, understanding that those countries we see succeeding on the global stage have a foundation, have a method, have a system and they don’t win U17 tournaments because that’s all a learning experience to prepare players for the future.

    Let us accept that we will lose games now but be setup to succeed in the future. Let’s dead the noise about having the youngest team in the World Cup so that we can truly start planning. We know, we don’t, Europeans know it too, so let’s stop deceiving ourselves because no one outside of Africa believes it either.

    Let’s look in the mirror because the fact is it’s not just Nigeria that use overaged players because that seems to be what you have to do to compete within Africa but when we get to the World Cup, it’s a different ball game.

    It is time my people to look inward, have a frank conversation about our youth, our passion, our future, our children, our football, let’s destroy and rebuild, we will never get anywhere in world football until that is done.

    Qatar 2022 is right around the corner, let’s get to work now!

    New Nff or old Nff pls start planning now!
    Without further delay siasia should be employed now but not only when there is problematic situations before bringing him.
    Good luck but let not the general election be a distraction and an excuse not to start planing Now.

  • God pls forgive me.
    Ighalo should be sold or swap with half rice bag.

    GR conspired wit argentine to kick us out and he is a mistake to super eagle. genot rod at 2nd half stressed the players a lot becuz of playing short one strikerless.

    Although i didnt wash the 2nd half but friends told me, bcuz i walk away after seen ighalo face, then i knew we have lost the the match.

    No one coach can loss this match. Iwobi the most creative midfielder was not brought earlier becuz the coach knew iwobi wil disturb the argentine and score or assisted so in other to bring us more disaster then he introduced ighalo so that we cannot find a way to win.

    In other for us to loss he brought strikers instead of more diffenders and exposed our diffence for rojo. Pls dis coach need to be fired. Thank you

  • Bestsports. 3 years ago


    The end of one World Cup should be the beginning of another. Sadly, we have ended our campaign in Russia 2018….and again began the Qatar 2022 World Cup race the same way we started previous tournaments except for our glorious debut in USA 94. Truth is that the only time we have had delightful memories of the World Cup was in 1994.
    We will again begin the race to Qatar 2022 with NFF election and its brouhaha. It is our tradition. People who have no business with football will be handed the leadership of our football, hiding under the umbrella of government candidates and zoning arrangement. We will battle litigation and FIFA threats for one or two years then, those who lost will start working against the football house and fraternity through and with the media. Then the winners will commence moves to secure committee seats in CAF and possibly FIFA. This will be precisely during the qualifiers for the World Cup. And after “tactically” qualifying, every other thing including preparation for the tournament are rushed.
    If after six attempts or participation in the World Cup, we cannot cross the second round then, something is fundamentally wrong, except we want to pretend or play pranks. Ironically, we are even drifting and slipping out of the second round zone to crashing out in the group stage.
    At the end of any of our campaigns at the World Cup we come up with blames. Recall in 2010, some of us almost skinned Sani Kaita alive for reckless foul which sent him out of our crucial game and cost us victory. For many of us Kaita was the person that sent us out of that tournament. Remember the sitter missed by Yakubu Aiyegbeni which entered FIFA’s record as the greatest miss in the history of the World Cup? Can we forget the goal scored by Gabriel Heinze which we protested for tugging, pushing and wrestling our defender before nodding the ball in? Our blame game has a rich historical background.
    Our exit from Russia 2018 has been blamed on and linked to many factors and excuses by angry and obviously disappointed football loving Nigerians. Some say Odion Ighalo for failing to chip or lob the ball above the Argentine goalkeeper during the dying moments of the crucial encounter. Some blame Gernot Rohr for poor selection yet again. Some blame the centre referee for not interpreting the VAR clip on the handball by the Argentine defender….and instead decided it was a ball to hand. Some are calling on the neck of FIFA topguns for conspiracy to favour two-time World Cup winners, Argentina.
    Sure the blame will continue perhaps till 2022 when the Qatar tournament comes knocking. I won’t be surprised if some will blame PMB, GEJ, PDP, OBJ, APC, IBB, ABS, June 12 Democracy Day, Boko Haram, Killer herdsmen, the great pig the predictor or even the cat.
    Incidentally yet interestingly, I hear a lot of commentators saying, “Don’t blame the Super Eagles. The boys tried….” I dare ask, did we go to Russia to try? Perhaps we have to start erasing this idea of going to the World Cup “to try”. Serious nations go to the World Cup to win. With all their preparations, support from both the Federal government and the NFF including prayers from the recession-beaten Nigerians, Eagles lacked nothing linked to motivation, therefore, they cannot go to Russia just for the sake “of trying”. When skipper John Obi Mikel promised Mr. President the trophy, he didn’t say they will try. He didn’t mix words. He was emphatic in his pledge to bring the trophy home.
    Between when the team qualified and when the World Cup commenced was ample time to turn around the mindset of trying to winning. The team played friendlies against Argentina, Poland, Serbia, Congo DR, England and Czech Republic. These were high profile games that should arm the team with enough lessons to do better than mere “trying” in Russia but, they didn’t. May be, Rohr has learnt a bitter lesson of not seeing the qualifying team as the World Cup squad. “My boys” is not the same thing as Super Eagles of Nigeria.
    Truth is you cannot give what you don’t have. We saw how Argentina dug deep to produce that winning goal that eventually ended our fun and run in Russia. They kept raiding us. They were in our half of the pitch for the greater part of the second half especially the last 20 minutes. Our boys could not stop their goal-hunt and desperation. When Germany took on Sweden, they kept grinding until that last moment of Toni Kroos magic. Perhaps, we lacked a team that is tactically discipline to hold on till the end. We lacked men with heart of steel….men in the mould of Chidi Nwanu, Uche Okechukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Michael Emenalo, Ajibade Babalade, Isaac Semitoje, Ben Iroha, Taribo West, Late Uche Okafor, Late Stephen Keshi, Tunde Bamidele, Leotis Boateng, Christian Chukwu, David Adiele, Sam Ojebode, Bright Omokaro, Sunday Eboigbe, Andrew Uweh, Sam Nwobum to mention a few…..men who can hang on till the end. Like my boss in Complete Sports (in those good old days), Alhaji Mumini Alao would say, “Soldiers are different from Boys Scout”. We lacked a team of and with leaders who can conjure the magic capable of stopping the rampaging Argentine who are now our nemesis. We crumbled when it mattered most. Conceding a goal at such period in a game shows which team was on the driving seat, which team wants it more and which team has the might and bite. For a team that seeks a draw or point to concede a goal at such point in a game simply means that it caved in and gave in to so much pressure.
    In the tournament, Super Eagles lost to a Croatian team that had players from FC Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid (Luca Modric and Kovacic). Against Iceland, Eagles won because they respected no player in the opponents squad which arguably had no big name….and when Argentina came with Lionel Messi and co. Eagles crumbled. Perhaps, quality was part of Eagles’ undoing.
    My prayer is for us not to walk this path in the next four years and in the next World Cup in Qatar. This four-year ritual is killing.
    Good inspiration from DESMOND.

  • God is great for Naija. We will continue to win

  • Janebrix 3 years ago

    Sacking our coaches has always been our berth. You have four year to prepare for the next World Cup. Stick with the present coach let him work with his young lad. It is easy for for we fans to criticize but when you take that mantle of being a coach it is different. Go ask Sunday oliseh who was a pundit and always criticizing coaches before him. He saw how hard it was when he bacame the coach. See how siasia is talking now, when he was there the same thing. Now I hear people say bring in Okocha. Smh continuity is the best Berth for us. In the next four years, the understanding will be better.

  • Dr. Drey 3 years ago

    In 2002 – young eagles
    In 2010 – young eagles
    In 2014 – young eagles
    In 2018 – young eagles

    Pls when will our eagles grow…?

    Where is the “U23” team that won bronze in Brazil…? Where are the players playing currently…? majority are nowhere to be found.
    Its high time we stopped deceiving ourselves. Apart from the foreign borns, Most of the current players in the eagles are already in decline. I’d be glad if we can have up 30% of these players still in form in 2022. We should start opening the doors of the national team to the likes of the Nwakalis, Sam Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and the likes who have distinguished themselves in our the last 4-5 years at U17 level (and are in the upward trajectory in their professional careers) from now on so they can have enough exposure and international experience between now and 2022.

  • Djeniko 3 years ago

    I personally think Gernot Rohr should be retained. He did a nice job. Why on earth should a reasonable person think Gernot Rohr conspired with Argentina for the defeat? He conspired with Croatia too. Stephen Keshi has also been accused of this conspiracy theory before his death. Some people even accused Gernot Rohr of taking bribe from Odion Ighalo to be featured in all matches. Guys, let’s reason now. Put emotions and sentiment aside. (1) Is there any team in Africa that is better than the Super Eagles today? We will be dreaded by any team. Even Senegal. No African team will survive group D. (2) Does anyone think FIFA will just allow Argentina with that crowd we saw to go back home? Add Messi and all Argentine stars to the equation, you will understand. Mikel is talking about big country, small country. Where was our crowd!!!!!? FIFA needs money and the success of the Russia 2018. Crowd makes a WC be tagged successful. Crowd means money and business. (3) The team just need a little tweak and it will be okay. Retain Mikel but don’t force him as the captain. Balogun and Troost Ekong are exemplary and leaders. Any one of them can fit Mikel’s shoes. We are emotional now but after the WC, we will see clearer.

    • stanley 3 years ago

      God bless you bro. 
      A piece of genuine analysis. It evidently clear to whole world that, the match between Nigeria and Argentina was a true Final. 
      It was a blood bath match that Messi and Co will never forget. The battle of Petersburg. 
      See reactions everywhere, congratulating Eagles. 
      Stop blame game. Almighty HIgUan missed a sitter .
      It’s football, you loose, you win. 
      Some countries didn’t qualify, yet they moved on. 
      Eagles tried alot. More than 2014 squad. 
      Up Eagles

  • @DJENIKO, ROHR defeated us. There was no reason good enough to ever play IGHALO again after the first match.

    Iwobi would have scored one of those two “YAKUBU ” opportunities that IGHALO missed.

    At 86min, 1:1 qualifies us.
    Why not throw in Ogu and Awazie for Musa and Etebo? Why not pack the bus?
    ROHR is simply daft.