Super Eagles full-back Brian Idowu is relishing the chance to share the same pitch as an Argentina superstar but insists there will be no room for sentiment, Goal.com reports.
Argentina’s stay in Russia is getting close to an end after Messi missed a penalty in their opening 1-1 draw against Iceland and Croatia made the most of an abject display from La Albiceleste to run out 3-0 winners, securing safe passage from Group D.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side can only do likewise by beating the Eagles, who lost to Croatia 2-0 but bounced back in style to see off Iceland by the same scoreline.
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Reports of a recalcitrant atmosphere in the Argentine camp have dominated the build-up but, by contrast, Idowu put Nigeria’s goal in simple, unfussy terms.
“That would be our main goal – to make it his last World Cup game,” he told a pre-match news conference when asked about possibly bringing down the curtain on Messi’s career on the grandest stage.
“As much as we love to watch Messi play, he is playing against us so we only have one option.
“Of course, I would like to swap shirts with him but there are a lot of players I would like to swap shirts with the Argentina side.”
Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr rejected the suggestion Idowu’s words might have the ill-fated consequence of providing extra motivation to the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“No, we don’t think about that. We focus on our game,” said the German tactician, who expects experienced midfielder John Obi Mikel to be available despite suffering a broken hand.
“We have this great player, Messi. Everybody loves him – me personally and all our team.
“The question for us is not whether it is a last World Cup match for him or not; the question is for us to qualify.
“We are not here to watch him play, we are here to get a result. We are professional and we must defend the colors of Nigeria.”
“In football, there is no mercy, there is no pity, you must not give any gifts – even if you like this player.
“He did well against Iceland and was unlucky, very unlucky, with the penalty. I think he is in good fitness and we have to be careful with him.”
Argentina and the African nation are familiar World Cup rivals.
The Super Eagles have been on the losing end in each of their previous four group-stage meetings – the first coming in 1994. Rohr’s men won a friendly between the countries in Krasnodar last November, although Messi was absent in that game.
This encounter marks a homecoming for Idowu, who was born in St Petersburg and has spent his career playing in Russian league football.
“I feel amazing. I saw my parents yesterday and today I met my best friend. I feel the support the people are showing me here,” he added.
“I’m excited. Hopefully, I’m going to give back to them and the Nigerian fans if I get chance to play tomorrow.”