Nigeria coach Keshi applauds ‘blessed’ Messi

Striker’s brace gives Argentina 3-2 win over African champions.

Afp June 26, 2014

PORTO ALEGRE: Lionel Messi’s man-of-the-match double goal performance in Argentina’s 3-2 win over Nigeria on Wednesday prompted the African champions’ coach Stephen Keshi to suggest the star striker had flown in from ‘Jupiter’.

The Barcelona superstar joined Brazil’s Neymar at the top of the World Cup scoring charts on four with a goal in the third minute and another, a superbly struck free kick, in the first half stoppage time.

These came on top of his match-winning strikes against Bosnia-Hercegovina and Iran.

“Messi is one heck of a player, he’s blessed,” Keshi acknowledged after seeing his side lose but still qualify for the last 16 as runners-up in Group F.

“There are other players with calibre in Argentina who are very strong, but Messi is from Jupiter,” Keshi told a post-match press conference.

Any chance Messi had of a hat-trick were dashed when coach, Alejandro Sabella, replaced him with Ricardo Alvarez after an hour.

“It seemed to me at 3-2 that we needed Messi to rest — it was agreed beforehand,” explained Sabella.

We hope to continue like this: Messi

Messi, who enjoyed friendly banter with Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama during the game, said he was just happy he and his teammates had achieved their objective of qualifying.

“We hope to continue like this, I think today [Wednesday] you saw a better Argentina,” he said.

“I’m happy with what we’ve done so far and to finish top of the group is great. A team like Nigeria play well, if you allow them space they can do you damage.”

Argentina will now play Group E runners-up Switzerland in Sao Paulo next Tuesday while Nigeria meet France in Brasilia on Monday.

And Messi cautioned, “Now we can’t make any mistakes as any error will see us getting knocked out.

“There is nothing more beautiful than to be world champion, to achieve that with my country.”

Argentina will be hoping Sergio Aguero’s muscle problem – that forced the Manchester City striker off before half time – is not too serious. Nigeria in the meantime celebrated making it out of the first round for the first time since 1998.

“I’m honoured it’s going our way,” said Keshi who has been in talks to become manager of South Africa after the competition.

On their clash with France, the Super Eagles boss remarked, “We know they are a very good, entertaining side, we will have to prepare ourselves to face a very good team for the next game.”

‘Best team in the group didn’t qualify’

Edin Dzeko weighed in with a first-half goal as Bosnia-Herzegovina knocked Iran out of the World Cup with a 3-1 win in Salvador on Wednesday.

Iran had needed to beat Bosnia and hope Nigeria lost to Argentina to keep alive faint hopes of reaching the last 16, but Carlos Queiroz’s side came up well short in the Group F clash.

“Congratulations to Bosnia,” said Queiroz. :With all due respect to Nigeria and Argentina, the best team in the group [Bosnia] didn’t qualify.

“They have great players and they played at another level to us.

“My players went to their physical and mental limits today [Wednesday], but it wasn’t possible to get the result.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2014.

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