Ossie Ardiles tips Super Eagles to be World Cup dark horses as NFF picks Pyatigorsk as Nigeria's base camp

ARGENTINE World Cup-winning midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles has tipped Nigeria to be one of the dark horses in the forthcoming World Cup pointing out that the Super Eagles may surprise everyone and win the tournament.


Ardiles, 65, is one of the heroes of Argentina's 1978 World Cup winning squad and is a legend among Tottenham Hotspur fans in London, where he played his club football. He later went on to enjoy a modest managerial career, coaching among others, Newcastle United, Spurs, West Bromwich Albion, Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia and Swindon Town.


Nigeria has been drawn in Group D of the World Cup alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland and Ardilles has warned that the Super Eagles are the team to watch out for. He stated that the Eagles are physically powerful and more motivated to win their opening match against Croatia.


Last month, Nigeria beat Argentina 4-2 in a friendly game that took place in the southern Russian city of Krosnador, raising alarm bells. Ardiles manager named Chelsea’s Victor Moses, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Leicester City’s Ahmed Musa as the stars in the Super Eagles squad.


Ardiles said: "Nigeria is a very, very dangerous team. True, there are no longer those big star stars like Finidi, Okocha, Kanu, Amokachi, however, this is a young , energy-loving team that wants to be at the level of its best time.


"Nigeria could be an unexpected favourite of the World Cup as they will play without any fear, they have nothing to lose and are very physically powerful and totally unpredictable. Argentina and Croatia will have to be very careful in the game with Nigeria, with Croatia being in my opinion to be more difficult because it plays the first game with them."


Speaking to  sportske.jutarnji.hr, Ardiles added: "In that opening match, the Nigerians will be the most motivated, they will want to show everything they know and they will know that getting three points can take them far away. Therefore, Croatia must be very concentrated.


"Not only that, as I recall, African teams usually know they are better at the beginning and less so as the championship moves. Here in England I have seen Moses in action for  Chelsea, Iwobi in Arsenal and Musa in Leicester, although  Mikel has left Chelsea for China."


Meanwhile, Nigeria has picked the city of Pyatigorsk as its first-choice base camp for the World Cup in Russia, subject to approval from Fifa. Under plans drawn up by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), the Super Eagles will be camped at the Professional Sanatorium Complex Mashuk Aqua-Therm, which, according to the Fifa guide book, is one of the best spa facilities located in the protected eco-resort region of the Caucasian Mineral Waters.


Located in the southern cluster of Fifa’s Base Camps, the sanatorium is almost equidistant from the Super Eagles’ match venues of Kaliningrad, Volgograd and St Petersburg. It is two hours’ flying time from the venue of the first match against Croatia, one and half hours away from the venue of the second match, and 50 minutes flying time away from the venue of the final group game.

In addition, it is two hours flying time from Moscow, where the NFF delegation will be lodged. This is similar to the arrangement at the last World Cup in Brazil, where the Super Eagles’ base camp was in Campinas, while the delegation stayed in Sao Paulo, nearly three hours away by car.


One NFF official said: “The NFF is only going with a small delegation but that delegation will still be far away from the team so that there will be no distractions. If the NFF fail to get the Sanatorium in Pyatigorsk, there are two others, undisclosed, options under consideration."