Nigeria will tackle Argentina for the fourth time in the opening round of the soccer World Cup.
The African Cup holders face Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Argentinians in Group “F” in Brazil next summer.
While many feel that Nigeria will reach the last 16, coach Stephen Keshi made it clear that he will take every challenger seriously.
“I am not in the group that feels the draw was an easy one,” he said. “That would be a mistake to make because all the 32 teams in the pot were worth their places and would be formidable to tackle in the finals. There is no way we are going to look at any team and under-rate that team. They qualified just like we did and no team would be coming determined to simply make up the number.”
Nigeria, the three-time African champions, has not recorded a win at the World Cup since defeating Bulgaria 15 years ago which is the last time they made it to the knockout stage.
“We are happy to be here,” said Keshi. “To be among the 32 best teams in the world is a thing of joy and our people back home – passionate soccer fans – are excited. For me, winning always depends on how well you prepare. Even the weather that some people are already saying will favour the African teams against the European teams may not matter much when the competition starts. It’s preparation that matters. I remember how in 1994, we thrashed Bulgaria 3-0 in our very first match at the World Cup finals and they went ahead to reach the semi-finals while we lost out in the Round of 16.”
This will be Nigeria’s fifth appearance in the World Cup finals.
Nigeria is among five African teams in the next year’s World Cup.
Cameroon is in Group “A” with host country Brazil, Mexico and Croatia; Ivory Coast is drawn with Japan, Colombia and Greece in Group “C”; Ghana is in the same group with the United States, Germany and Portugal in “G” and Algeria is grouped with Russia, South Korea and Belgium in Group “H”.
Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana are the only African teams to have reached the World Cup quarter-finals.
In the other groups, title holders Spain is drawn with The Netherlands, Chile and Australia; Uruguay is in the same group with Costa Rica, England and Italy and Honduras, Switzerland, Ecuador and France are in Group “E”.