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    Nigeria

    Nigeria has brought back Joseph Yobo and Peter Odemwingie into his initial 30-man squad for the FIFA World Cup™. Yobo last featured in team which won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa last year. Odemwingie had a public falling-out with Keshi after he was left out of the Nations Cup squad.

    Stoke City striker Odemwingie has scored seven goals in 29 English Premier League matches and he has since apologised to Keshi for his Twitter posts. Several players from the Nations Cup-winning squad have been left out, including Ukraine-based Brown Ideye and Fegor Ogude.

    Nigeria squad

    Goalkeepers
    : Vincent Enyeama (Lille/FRA), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheva/ISR), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United), Daniel Akpeyi (Warri Wolves)

    Defenders
    : Elderson Echiejile (Monaco/FRA), Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC/SCO), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor/TUR), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough/ENG), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC/ISR), Joseph Yobo (Norwich City/ENG), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars)

    Midfielders
    : Mikel Obi (Chelsea/ENG), Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio/ITA), Ramon Azeez (Almeria/SPA), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers), Gabriel Reuben (Beveren/BEL), Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis/SPA), Joel Obi (Parma/ITA), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge/BEL), Sunday Mba (CA Bastia/FRA)

    Forwards
    : Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United/ENG), Victor Moses (Liverpool/ENG), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce/TUR), Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona/ITA), Peter Osaze Odemwingie (Stoke City/ENG), Babatunde Michael (Volyn/UKR), Nnamdi Oduamadi (Varese/ITA), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen/NED)

    *Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 16 May at 12:00 CET.

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    Enyeama: Nigeria will reach the semi-finals

    If all goes according to plan, Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama will play in his third FIFA World Cup™ next month. He is fresh off winning the Marc-Vivien Foe award given to the best African player in France's Ligue 1, and following up on his impressive performances for the Super Eagles at South Africa 2010, Enyeama has high expectations.

    Although Nigeria have struggled in their last two World Cups, the Lille custodian tells FIFA.com that the African champions can make deep in-roads in Brazil after being drawn into Group F against Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina.

    “I think we are going to make big progress," Enyeama said. "We are focused on the World Cup, to make Africa the proudest continent. Ghana almost reached the semi-finals four years ago. We are going to achieve a better result and be the first African team to get to the semi-finals of the World Cup."

    The 31-year-old first played for Nigeria at Korea/Japan 2002, when coach Festus Onigbinde gave the then 19-year-old a starting place in their final group game against England, after the team had already been eliminated. Enyeama's outstanding display helped the Super Eagles to a goalless draw and was a sign of things to come for the Kaduna-born goalkeeper, who took over the No1 jersey from Ike Shorunmu when the veteran retired shortly after that World Cup. Since then, Enyeama has been an ever-present for his country, shining at South Africa 2010 and last year's FIFA Confederations Cup, and winning the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2013 - a tournament the West Africans are hoping to defend in Morocco next year.

    It will be the third time in a row that Nigeria will be facing Argentina at the World Cup, but more importantly for Enyeama, a match-up with France in the second round could be on the cards: “If we play against France, it will be interesting, but if we play against Switzerland, it will also be interesting. The important thing is to qualify.

    "Playing France for a place in the last eight is not really what matters to me right now, I just want the team to make it to the second round. But maybe we will come out first, and then we will not have to play against France.”

    Enyeama started his career with Ibom Stars, before moving to Nigerian giants Enyimba, with whom he twice won the CAF Champions League. A short stint with Heartland FC followed.

    He then embarked on his overseas career in 2005 when he joined Bnei Yehuda in Israel. His performances with the side were so impressive that Israeli glamour club Hapoel Tel Aviv put in an offer and Enyeama made the short move across town. With Hapoel he played in the UEFA Champions League and even managed to score a goal in the play-off round against Red Bull Salzburg.

    He joined Ligue 1 club Lille in 2011, but failed to break into the first side and returned to Israel in 2012, where he joined Maccabi Tel Aviv on loan, winning the championship with them. He returned to Lille a year later and was made first choice goalkeeper by coach Rene Girard and has not looked back since.

    “I always wanted to be a first-choice goalie anywhere I played. I always wanted to be the person who puts the smile on people’s face. At first it was not the case here, but it changed. I don’t work for trophies. I work to improve my game, to help my team. Trophies are just the icing on the cake.”

    Foe award elevates Enyeama confidence
    Enyeama has enjoyed a highly successful season with Lille, helping the club to third in the league, keeping 21 clean sheets in the process and coming close to breaking the Ligue 1 record for a goalkeeper without conceding a goal. However, those statistics are far from the most important thing to him.

    He said: “I don’t care about statistics. I just want to see how far I can go and help my team. When I am no longer effective, then I leave the scene. I also do not care to be the most-capped player in the history of the Super Eagles - things like that.”

    But even if Enyeama is not chasing records, his performances were greatly appreciated this season, as the awarding of the Marc-Vivien Foe award shows. “This is a great trophy, I'm really happy," he said. "It is inspiring because it bears the name of a great player - Marc-Vivien Foe - who worked so hard to succeed and save his team and his country. I think this award will give me more confidence for the World Cup.”

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    Nwofor spares Nigeria's blushes

    Uche Nwofor struck from an acute angle in the final minute to spare Nigeria's blushes as they began their FIFA World Cup™ preparation with a 2-2 draw against Scotland at Craven Cottage. The Scots took the lead in the tenth minute with a smart finish from Charlie Mulgrew and again through an Azubuike Egwuekwe own goal, following Michael Uchebo's leveller.

    Just as it appeared Scotland were about to throw a spanner into the Super Eagles' plans in Brazil, Nwofor levelled to at least ensure they avoided defeat.

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    Mba misses out, Yobo in for Nigeria

    Sunday Mba, who helped secure a third CAF Africa Cup of Nations last year, has failed to make the cut for Nigeria's final squad for the FIFA World Cup™. Mba, who scored the winning goal in the 2013 Nations Cup final against Burkina Faso, was late in joining the Super Eagles' training squad in London last week because of a visa hitch.

    But Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said the midfielder has since not shown enough desire to be part of the 23-man squad going to Brazil.

    "His lateness to camp contributed (to his missing out) but outside that he did not show the hunger, the fight, we expected for him," explained Keshi. "We have only two and half weeks to prepare for the World Cup and he was not giving us what we wanted. He was very relaxed and it was unlike him."

    The six other players who will not be on the flight to Brazil next week are Joel Obi (Inter Milan), Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis), Nnamdi Oduamadi (AC Milan), Obinna Nsofor (Lokomotiv Moscow), Daniel Akpeyi (Warri Wolves)and Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers).


    Skipper Joseph Yobo and striker Peter Odemwingie will feature in South America after being recalled following a long absence. Surprise inclusions are Ukraine-based forward Babatunde Michael and Kunle Odunlami, who features for Nigerian side Sunshine Stars.

    Nigeria are drawn in Group F with Argentina, Bosnia Herzegovina and Iran. They kick off their campaign on 16 June against Iran.

    Nigeria squad:

    Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille/FRA), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheva /ISR)
    Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco/FRA), Efe Ambrose (Celtic/SCO), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor/TUR), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough/ENG), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC/ISR), Joseph Yobo (Norwich City/ENG), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars)
    Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea/ENG), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio/ITA), Gabriel Reuben (Beveren/BEL), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge/BEL), Ramon Azeez (Almeria/SPA)
    Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United/ENG), Victor Moses (Chelsea/ENG), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce/TUR), Peter Odemwingie, (Stoke City/ENG), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen/NED), Babatunde Michael (Volyn/UKR)

    * Squad lists are only official once they have been confirmed and published by FIFA on 5 June at 12:00 CET.

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    Mikel: We're not here to make up numbers

    Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel believes Nigeria are on the right track to build on their success as African champions at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. The Super Eagles have played in five of the past six World Cups but after reaching the second round in 1994 and 1998, have taken just two points from their past six matches in the finals. They come into the tournament on a high, however, after winning last year's Africa Cup of Nations and boasting the likes of Mikel, his Chelsea team-mate Victor Moses and forward Emmanuel Emenike.

    "This is my first World Cup," Mikel said after a training session in Campinas. "I want to make sure we achieve something coming here. We don't just want to come and make up the numbers, we want to do well.
    "I have to make sure I lead by example. We are all driving in the same direction. We all know what we want and hopefully we will have a good tournament." Mikel believes that becoming African champions has given the Nigerian side an injection of confidence as they make their World Cup preparations.

    He said: "We know we're the African champions and people expect us to do well, to represent the African continent. That's a bit more extra pressure but it's pressure that we love. We love to be African champions. "We're doing well, we're doing everything we can. We're preparing well. Today the result in Spain against the Netherlands (5-1 victory for the Dutch) shows anything is possible so we have to make sure we approach games seriously and play well."

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    Keshi: Tactical discipline has let African teams down

    The Brazilians did not forget Stephen Keshi and his Super Eagles after the men in green swooped down to South America’s biggest country for the FIFA Confederations Cup last year. Though they were unable to navigate themselves through an examining group including world champions Spain and Copa America holders Uruguay, they did give a good account of themselves and thrill the flair-obsessed locals. That was evident when the Nigerians arrived at the team hotel in Campinas, where innumerable animated fans were on hand to greet them.

    Here, in an interview with FIFA, Keshi reveals his surprise at that memorable welcome, discusses the way he believes football should be played, outlines what has let African sides down in the past, and weighs in on Iran, whom Nigeria will commence their FIFA World Cup™ campaign against in Curitiba on Monday.

    FIFA: Stephen: You got such a great reception when you got to the team hotel. How pleased were you?
    Very pleased. Very pleased because it was something that we were not expecting. And we came so late in the morning and they were still waiting for us just to give us a welcome back. It was good.

    Are you satisfied with Nigeria’s level or can you still improve?
    We can be much better. This squad is probably a year-plus old, it's a new team. Most of the players are young. We're still in the process of getting much better at what we do. In two years’ time we can be much better.

    What can the team achieve under you?
    I don't know. My dream is to build a strong team for Nigerians and give these players a reason to be footballers. And to show the many players that are coming up behind that they can become somebody in football. That's my dream and that's it.

    How important is the team’s unity?
    It's very important because I think that most of the teams that I played for in Europe, in Africa, always had this unity, this oneness. I think it's a great weapon to have in your team because everyone is there, fighting for one another, playing for one another, which is a great thing. I've known this all my life as a football player, and now as a coach I'm experiencing the same thing. This is the way we got to qualify. Togo also qualified for the World Cup in 2006 because we were united. We had more spirit moving forward. It was the same thing in Mali when I was there as well. I think it's working so I just keep on.

    What's Stephen Keshi's football philosophy? What can we expect from a Stephen Keshi side?
    I like attacking football. I don't believe you need to sit back and load behind. You've got to be open and make the people come to the stadium. They spend so much money – they need to get value for it. Good, attacking football is what I like. Of course there must be purpose and discipline and togetherness to make the good football work.

    Pele once said that an African side would win the World Cup by the end of the 20th century. Do you think African football is now on a par with Europe and South America?
    I think so. If you look at most of the African players that are playing now for the African teams – the five African teams that have qualified for the World Cup – most of them are playing in Europe, playing against the same players as European players, South American players. I think it's the same thing. The only problem, the only difference I think is the lack of concentration and the lack of discipline on the field. Tactical discipline, that is. If we could pay attention to our game plan and concentrate, I think we could do it because this is the same team that we play against week in, week out in Europe. Nigeria haven't won a World Cup game for a while. Why do you think that is? I mean, we’ve always had such great players. It’s because of a lack of tactical discipline and concentration. You have a wealth of experience in the squad. How will this help you progress? You can’t buy this sort of experience. I pray that Vincent Enyeama, [Joseph] Yobo, [John] Mikel Obi will bring all their experience. Youth is good, but if we can combine youth and experience that will be great for us.

    First up for Nigeria are Iran, whose coach has a good deal of experience. What are your views on the Iranians?
    I think an experienced coach is their biggest weapon, because he's well experienced, he knows the game well. For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We're not going to take Iran lightly because they're not going to take us lightly. So we have to go out with everything that we have. They have a very good coach and I'm sure they also have some quality players. We don't know Iran very well, but we'll see them on Monday.

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    Odemwingie triumphs against familiar faces

    Even before Nigeria had taken to the field, it was clear that Peter Odemwingie was amongst friends when facing Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a broad smile and an infectious laugh, the Stoke City striker is not only a popular figure within his own ranks, but a key part of the opposition defence seemed fond of him too – or at least until his goal-scoring turn in Cuiaba sealed the Bosnians' elimination from the tournament. The figures in white embracing and chatting with the soon-to-be Man of the Match were club team-mate Asmir Begovic and opposing captain Emir Spahic, who shared the pitch with the Nigerian at Lokomotiv Moscow. The fact that their interactions remained as warm after the final whistle, despite his solitary goal prematurely ending the Europeans' World Cup debut, provided a telling and touching reminder that, after all, football is just a game.

    But despite his inside knowledge on the man between the sticks he would be trying to beat, Odemwingie is dismissive when asked by FIFA.com if he had the upper-hand over Begovic.. “[Laughs] No, I don't think so, as saving shots from close distance is one of the stronger sides of his game,” after slotting underneath the big Bosnian from seven yards in the first-half of the Super Eagles' eventual 1-0 win. “He is a great guy. He knows I have a good shot and I tried to shoot a few times today. I'm sure he is going to tell me off when I get back to Stoke [laughs],” said the nippy forward, born in what is now Uzbekistan, before taking a more sincere tone. “I had to do it for my country but I was so happy to see him on this stage and I exchanged shirts with him at the end of the game.”

    He echoed the sentiments when Spahic's name was raised, having last played alongside the commanding centre-back in 2009 in the Russian Premier League. “I was happy to see him,” he replied fondly. “We played together for about two or three good seasons so, seeing your mates coming into this World Cup, especially with him as a captain, I can only be proud to say that they are my friends.” The understandably jovial Odemwingie chuckled when asked whether he had been handing out tips to his fellow Super Eagles on how to get the better of his two friends in the opposing dressing room. “I only told my team-mates that [Spahic] is very dangerous with his head,” he said, before getting a mischievous look in his eye as a familiar figure wandered towards him within the bowels of the Arena Panatanl. The Nigerian continued, shouting this time with a grin on his face: “He is not so tall but you should be careful as he can score with his head.”

    A loud laugh meets this answer, as the nearing Spahic embraced his victorious adversary for the night. Odemwingie enquired while the Bosnian is still wandering around the now near-empty stadium (a trip for a mandatory doping test the answer) and the pair shared a swift chat in Russian before Spahic left for his team's bus. A parting request by Odemwingie for Spahic and Co to do Nigeria a favour against Iran was met with a look from the departing captain that this particular friend was pushing his luck. Should the Bosnians avoid defeat it would be a huge boost for Nigeria, however, who know a point against Argentina would guarantee passage into the Round of 16 after earning their first win since 1998 – a stretch of nine matches. “We have waited so long for this victory,” Odemwingie said. “I'm so happy for the country, our fans, the team. It was maybe one of the hardest three points in my career, though.”

    Having not started the the opening 0-0 draw against Iran, but being a lively figure after arriving off the bench, he hopes he has done enough to start in their crucial final game. “I earned myself a starting position and it was important to work hard today to keep it, especially before a big game like Argentina, which is a dream for every player to play in.” With a little help from his friends, Odemwingie will be able to look forward to matching Nigeria's greatest ever performance at the World Cup, set back in 1994. It is unlikely, however, that he will be as warmly embraced by his opposition as he was in Cuiaba.

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    Kanu: We called Keshi 'big boss'

    Nwankwo Kanu has a long history with the FIFA World Cup™, having appeared in three tournaments spanning three different decades wearing the colours of Nigeria. The tall striker helped his side to match their best ever performance of escaping the group stages at France 1998, while he took his final bow for the Super Eagles at South Africa 2010. He told FIFA.com last year that "everyone wants to represent their country at the World Cup and there are three goals you want to achieve there. The first is to participate, the second is to make your mark, and the third is to win it."

    The former Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal forward is now out in Brazil watching his beloved country achieve the first of those targets, while no doubt hoping they can tick off the second one and, who knows, maybe even the third. FIFA.com caught up with him again as they beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in Cuiaba to get his views on the team.

    How do you feel the team played against Bosnia and Herzegovina?
    When we played against Iran, they were not really coming out. The Bosnians, of course, wanted to win so they came out and that suited our pattern of play, which was good for us.

    Do you feel you will be able to earn the point you need against Argentina to ensure a Round of 16 place?
    Yeah, I think so, because what has happened with the Nigerian team is that they keep getting better game after game, so I believe when we play Argentina the confidence and the winning mentality beating Bosnia will bring will mean we will be able to do well against Argentina.

    Are you enjoying the fact that a Nigerian World Cup legend in Stephen Keshi is leading the side in Brazil?
    Yeah, we support him, we know what he can do. He has done it in the Africa Cup of Nations but he still has to do it this time around. It's good to see him, a former captain, become the coach, a player who appeared at the World Cup now leading his side at the tournament again.

    You played alongside him with the Super Eagles at the start of your career. What are you memories of him?
    We used to call him the 'big boss' [laughs]. He is the big one who makes the decisions and we as the young ones had to respect that and follow him. But the good thing with him was that he had influence and I think he is showing that again with the way he is leading the national team.

    It is also quite a young team as well, so do you think there is more to come from them in the future?
    When [Keshi] came in, he said we need to build a team and before we knew it we had won the Nations Cup and now we are in the World Cup, so I think the work is in progress.

    Are you enjoying following the team around Brazil?
    Yes, I love it! Do I think I will be here for the whole tournament? I would say yes, because we are going to get to the semi-finals of course.

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    Yobo: I believe in this team

    For Joseph Yobo, the pre-match ritual is as much a part of the game as the half-time team talk. In his 16 years as a professional, the Nigeria defender has always readied himself for action the same way, slipping on his shirt and then singing and praying before stepping on to the pitch. It is a routine he has gone through innumerable times – but on precisely 100 occasions for the Super Eagles. A sterling servant for his country, Yobo had the honour of bringing up his century of caps against Argentina in Nigeria's final Group F game at Brazil 2014.

    Although his side slipped to a 3-2 loss in that match, the 33-year-old came away with almost entirely positive memories. After all, not only did he hit a significant personal milestone, Bosnia and Herzegovina's 3-1 victory against Iran ensured that Nigeria tied down a berth in the Round of 16. "Qualifying for the knockout phase was our first objective," the Super Eagles' captain told FIFA.com. "We're very happy because that hadn't happened to us since 1998. This time, we did it with pride, by finishing second and trying to win first place against Argentina."

    'I'm proud of our team'
    They gave the South Americans a genuine scare too, though Yobo feels they could have done even more. "We're disappointed because we didn't play that game to win it from the very first minute," explained the Fenerbahce stopper, who spent the last six months on loan at Norwich City. "We thought a draw would be a good result, but in the second half we came out even stronger to try and win the match. That's what we should have done from the very first minute." Lionel Messi's early strike showed up the flaw in their conservative game plan, but Yobo took plenty of encouragement from how the match subsequently played out. "I'm proud of our team and our reaction after we fell behind," he said. "We're happy to have qualified but disappointed not to have got a better result."

    That in itself says much about the ambition in the Nigeria ranks, given that La Albiceleste boast a pair of World Cup titles and were able to bring a four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner to the party. "They're one of the best teams in the world and it was a huge test for us," added the former Everton stalwart, who hardly needed a second to think before naming the greatest forward he has faced in his long career. "Oh Messi – he's the best by far. I'd already played against him in 2010 and he caused us problems then, but we managed to stop him scoring. He's a really special player. You only have to look at how he made us suffer today."

    In truth, the Barcelona star was the one real difference between the teams in Porto Alegre, where Stephen Keshi's men proved that they have made tangible progress since their campaign got under way. "Lots of people said that we started off too timidly against Iran (0-0), but they were a solid team and we've improved since our first game," said Yobo. "Our third match was probably our best since the tournament began, even if it ended in defeat."

    Forward momentum
    With 100 caps under his belt, the veteran is now able to adopt a more detached perspective on Nigeria's results, looking beyond the outcome for a more nuanced take on the performance. Even so, a study of their scorelines suggests that the Super Eagles have been resurgent since 2001. "I've played in this side for many years, so I've been able to see it evolve," Yobo noted, having previously graced the World Cup stage at Korea/Japan 2002. "We won the Africa Cup of Nations, booked our place in the World Cup without any trouble and now we've qualified for the second round. It's not often that I've experienced so many pieces of good news in a row. That shows you we're improving. This team is young, but it's growing fast and learning quickly. We're taking confidence from our campaign so that it can help us in our next match."

    That takes the African champions to Brasilia for a meeting with France, where Yobo spent the 2001/02 season during a brief spell at Marseille. Like Argentina, Les Bleus are sure to provide another probing examination, particularly with Karim Benzema in such keen form. "We've just played against the best forward in the world, so we're ready to measure ourselves against anybody," said Yobo, before adding with a grin: "I don't see what we should be afraid of. I believe in this team, and I think we can do it."

    Yobo will collect his 101st cap in that encounter, and understandably he hopes to go through his pre-match ritual a few more times yet on Brazilian soil. "If we don't win the next game, there won't be a 102nd cap and so on. But what if I can make it to 104 in Brazil?"

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    Mikel positive despite Nigeria exit

    It may be something of a footballing cliché that “at the highest level, any error can prove fatal” but on Monday, at the Estadio Nacional, it most certainly rang true. Having shown organisation and initiative aplenty in their Round of 16 clash versus France, Nigeria’s hopes of clinching a first ever FIFA World Cup™ quarter-final were dealt a hammer blow in the 79th minute.

    From a French corner kick, Super Eagles goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama – who had been in fine form throughout the match – misjudged the high ball, enabling the unmarked Paul Pogba to nod Les Bleus into a crucial lead. Though the error turned out to be the beginning of the end for Nigeria, it should by no means overshadow their positive campaign here at Brazil 2014. “Honestly, I don’t think that we should be feeling bad right now,” said John Obi Mikel to FIFA.com, having had time to shower and cool down after the heat and emotion of a very even encounter. “We’ve had a great tournament and today we showed the whole world just what we’re capable of, even when up against a great team.

    “I think that we played really well from the start, right up until we conceded the opening goal,” added the Chelsea midfielder. “From that moment on, I’ll admit that we let our heads drop a bit. We couldn’t drag ourselves back into it, but none of that should take the shine off our performance.” In Mikel’s view, were it not for the costly corner mix-up, the 1998 world champions would have been unlikely to pierce the Nigerian backline. “We were very well-organised,” said the No10.

    “We knew exactly what we needed to do in defence against a strong team like France and, on top of that, whenever we had the ball we weren’t afraid to attack. We even had good chances to go in front ourselves. We got so much right, but mistakes do happen. What else can we say? We need to forget it and move on.”

    Midfield tussle
    Not that Mikel will be able to forget the titanic battle he enjoyed in the centre of the park with France counterpart Pogba, the powerful duo shadowing each other from start to finish in Brasilia. “It was an incredible duel, it’s true. There were times when I thought he was starting to look tired, but then he went and scored the opening goal. I guess that, in the end, he wasn’t that tired! But yes, the two of us had a really good tussle,” said Mikel, just as Pogba passed behind him in the mixed zone and gave him a friendly pat on the back.

    “I was just talking about you. Good luck for the rest of the tournament,” said Mikel to the Juventus star, showing admirable good manners, before winding up his conversation with FIFA.com. “He’s an unbelievable player, isn’t he? He got the better of me today, but I’m sure we’ll come up against each other loads more times in the future. Who knows, maybe even at the next World Cup?”

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