Argentina coach ready for Nigeria this time


Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has assured fans of the team they will be “very competitive” at the 2018 World Cup. His assurance follows the unfriendly remarks on the team by Diego Maradona.

The Argenteneans were placed in Group D with Nigeria, Croatia and debutants Iceland.

Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who helped conduct the draw, expressed reservations over his country’s prospects.

“Argentina cannot play any worse than they are doing,” he told TYC Sports. “Argentina have a manageable group but they have to improve.”

But Sampaoli responded this way, “I hope we have the possibility during this time to train and play better. I think in certain moments in qualifying we gave a glimpse of what we want but we need to use this time to obviously improve.”

Argentina did not book their spot in Russia until their final qualifier, a 3-1 win at Ecuador on October 10, with lion-hearted Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick.

Sampaoli, who replaced sacked Edgardo Bauza in May, anticipates a challenging campaign for his side in Russia next year. If for anything, his side was trounced 4-2 by Nigeria last month in a friendly match played in Russia.

Sampaoli said, “These are rivals that are coming with few obligations and a lot of enthusiasm for a unique opportunity as the World Cup is. They are going to make us fight but it will depend on us. We need to establish a way and be the Argentina we want to be.

“Island will make us work, as everyone else. Nigeria is unpredictable, they are very fast. We need to study them well.”

Sampaoli however considers Croatia the toughest opponent. He said, “Croatia has an excellent midfield line with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic. They also have (Mario) Madzukic as a No. 9. They are very strong.”