By Festus Abu
Mikel Obi has vowed to do everything to ensure the Super Eagles qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Nigeria, who currently sit atop Group B Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers on six points, are gearing up for their vital qualifying double-header against their eternal rivals Cameroon, who are second in the group on two points.
The Eagles host the Indomitable Lions in Uyo on August 31, with the African champions receiving the Nigerians in the reverse fixture in Yaounde on September 4.
And Nigeria captain Mikel, who has been struggling to regain fitness after undergoing surgery in London in April following an injury he sustained while playing for his Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda, has warned his Eagles’ teammates to expect a tough test against the Lions over the two legs.
“As everyone knows, they are a very good team,” the former Chelsea midfielder, who represented Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in 2014, was quoted by FIFA.com as saying of Cameroon on Wednesday.
“They are strong and they play with confidence. We must get ourselves well prepared for this game and try our best to get on top against them. It won’t be easy but these are important matches. If we win both, we will be almost there.”
The 30-year-old admits he is under pressure to feature in the world football showpiece in the country where the mother of his twins comes from.
He said, “My wife is Russian, and many of our relatives and friends are from Russia. They are all expecting Nigeria to qualify for the next World Cup. I think they will kill me if I fail them.”
The 2012 UEFA Champions League winner laments the injury, which has sidelined him for months, promising to do everything within his power to be fit for the double-header.
“I had maintained good form until this injury,” the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner said.
“So it was a shame. But this is part of the game and now I am focusing on recovery and on coming back stronger. I will do whatever I can to get fit to play for Teda and my national team.
“This Nigeria team look up to me for advice. My teammates miss me and they need me. As the captain, I want to fulfil my role and help them with my experience.”
Mikel added, “I am glad with what I have done. But at the same time, I am not satisfied. I want to achieve more, so I must push harder.
“ The next World Cup in Russia will be a fresh chance for us but, first, we have to make it there. Then the next challenge will be to make sure we enjoy an even better tournament in Russia than we did in Brazil.”
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