Sabella urges Argentina to improve

Argentina coach Sabella is wary of the threat posed by African champions Nigeria



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Argentina need to raise their game and seize their chances to ensure victory over a fast and strong Nigeria side in their final World Cup Group F match, coach Alejandro Sabella said this morning (Singapore time).

The two-time former champions have already qualified for the last 16 but narrow wins against lowly debutants Bosnia and unfancied Iran have been less than convincing for a team who were among the favourites going into the tournament.

Several chances were squandered against Iran before Lionel Messi, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, grabbed the only goal with a stoppage-time winner.

"I'm worried in the sense we have to improve," Sabella said.

"We need to be more mobile, to find spaces and we will see if the match will be different. We are going to meet a team that can play with high potential, switch to attack with ease."

Argentina lead Group F with six points and need a draw to ensure qualifying in top spot.


A draw would be enough for Nigeria to go through but, if they lose and Iran beat Bosnia, the runners-up spot would be decided on goal difference.

Sabella said he had not yet picked his team because some players - he did not say who - still had injury worries but he added that he would likely play a 4-3-3 formation.

Although Nigeria have also struggled to shine, Sabella expects a tough game against the African champions.

"I see a fast team attacking swiftly," he said. "They are strong when they get the ball into attack. It is a team that is very fast and that makes you worry. We have seen some surprises but that doesn't mean we will have one tomorrow."

Asked if the team relied too much on Messi, Sabella said: "Every time you have a player like Messi, there is a dependence. So we try to reduce this dependence but you are always dependent on a player like that.

"This pressure is normal for a great player in the World Cup. We try to take some weight off his shoulders. We are a team, we have to help each other."

Nigeria's talismanic goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama is relishing the renewal of his rivalry with Messi in tonight's clash.

Enyeama faced the player he hailed yesterday as "a genius" at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where, despite some notable saves, Argentina won 1-0.

Asked if he was anxious about the looming skirmish with the four-time World Footballer of the Year, the Lille shot-stopper replied: "To tell you the truth, I'm never afraid of footballers. Messi is one of the best players on the planet, but it's not a game between him and me, it's a game between Nigeria and Argentina.

"Messi is a genius, one of the best footballers the world has produced, but tomorrow's game is against Argentina, not just him."

- Wire Services.

World Cup