It was only three months ago that Nigeria lost 2:1 to Argentina in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the wounds for John Obi Mikel are still fresh. He’s been in the news these last couple of days since, for the third game in a row, he isn’t going to be in the Super Eagles squad.
The Nigerian Football Federation has released a statement in which they claim that Mikel is recovering from an injury he had suffered while playing for Tianjin Teda in China not allowing him to travel back to Nigeria to help his team against the Libyans.
He had been talking to the Chinese TV about his experience in the World Cup and how he still regrets the loss to Argentina and how it happened. He said that he believes that they could have won the match had the Turkish referee Cüneyt Cakir awarded a penalty for Nigeria at a decisive point. He thinks the referee got it wrong and that the Super Eagles could have won the game if they had scored then.
One of Mikel’s assignments was to watch Lionel Messi, arguably the best footballer in the world at the moment and of course, Messi scored the first goal in the match giving the Argentinians the lead. Victor Moses managed to level it for Nigeria before they suffered heartbreak and conceded a goal in the 86th minute of the game. It’s ironic that it was Marcus Rojo who scored for Argentina as he was suspected to have handled the ball when Nigeria didn’t get their penalty call.
John Obi Mikel has played for Chelsea for ten years before moving to China in January 2017. He won the Champions league with Chelsea in 2012. Before his absence from the Nigerian squad, he had played for the Eagles 85 times in his midfield position, scoring six goals in total and winning the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2013. He also has a bronze medal from the 2016 Summer Olympics.
He added in his interview on TV that he had struggled to forget the defeat to Argentina and that he has had to find strength and motivation from other sources. He labelled Argentina as a good team and praised Messi, but he also hopes that the Super Eagles will be victorious the next time they play them.
Mikel says he is happy in China and that he wants to continue his career there for the foreseeable future. Nigerian coach Gernot Rohr hops he will be able to play for his country in November against South Africa, in a game that might decide who will top the qualifying group for the AFCON 2019.