By Nnamdi Ezekute in Kaliningrad:
Super Eagles captain John Mikel Obi has declared that the team will look to start their campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on a positive note on Saturday by picking maximum points in their Group D clash against Croatia at the Kaliningrad Stadium, reports Completesportsnigeria.com.
“We are ready. Obviously the tournament is about to start for us. We want to start well against Croatia tomorrow. Hopefully, we will start the game well and also win too,” Mikel said during his interaction with the media here in Kaliningrad ahead of the team’s first training session at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Friday.
“We don’t have any issue with money, no troubles, the camp is quiet and everyone is disciplined. There has been unity in camp from day one. Hopefully, we will carry that into the game tomorrow.”
The Super Eagles no doubt face a tough task in Russia with a young squad that include the likes of Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho who plays for Leicester City, Tyronne Ebuehi and a host of others who will be playing in the competition for the first time.
But the midfielder who will be playing in his second World Cup is unfazed by the challenge and has backed the youngsters to shine in Russia.
“It might be an advantage and a disadvantage as well. You never because nothing is certain in football,” Mikel stated.
“We want to take each game as they come. Sometimes experience counts, sometimes youthfulness counts as well.
”These players have not been to the World Cup before but they have a lot of energy in them with so much to prove as well. It is the biggest stage which is good enough to motivate them.
“This is is the team that we have. A lot has changed for us and we have been together for close to a year and half now. We want to do something great together.
“We have a young team with a blend of little experience too.”
One of the young guns in the Super Eagles squad is goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who is set to be in goal against the Vatreni.
Mikel has kind words for the young goalie despite his lack of experience at the big stage.
“He (Uzoho) is young but the good thing about him is that he always calm even under pressure,” the Tiajin Teda of China star replied when asked about the readiness of the former youth international for the game on Saturday.
“I speak to him a lot during games, but it is important to allow him do his job too. He know exactly what he is doing and we don’t have to distract him with too much talks.
“I hope he will have a good tournament, same for the team too.”
Croatia, unlike the Super Eagles have mixture of quality and experienced players in their team and will prove a tough nut to crack for Mikel and teammates.
He however insisted that they are ready for challenge against their star studded opponents.
“Obviously, I don’t want to talk much about the Croatia team. My focus for now is our team,” the former Chelsea player declared.
“No doubt they have a good team but tomorrow it is going to be 11 versus 11. They like to hold on to the ball and we like to do that as well.
”Their team is more experienced, while ours is very young. We are looking forward to the game.”
The former Lyn Oslo of Norway player also expressed satisfaction from the level of support from the Russian fans.
“I think everyone has really been nice to us. A lot of Russians have come out to support us, may be it is because my girlfriend is a Russian,” he added.
“But this is good for us. It’s like we are home. Hopefully the level of support will be the same tomorrow which will obviously help the young players on the pitch.”