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Moses trains as Nigeria refocus on football
Question of the Day
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - With a row over bonus payments resolved after presidential intervention, the focus of Nigeria’s World Cup squad was back on football Saturday as all 22 available players participated in training ahead of the second-round match against France.
Victor Moses had been the main injury concern for the Nigerians but the Chelsea winger trained under bright sunshine in the Brazilian capital. Only midfielder Michael Babatunde, who fractured his wrist during the group stage, wasn’t present.
The possible threat of Nigeria’s players striking over unpaid bonuses was averted late Thursday when Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan stepped in and spoke to coach Stephen Keshi and captain Joseph Yobo.
Now the African champions are concentrating on Monday’s match.
“Our mentality must be strong,” Keshi said. “Our approach to every match has always been the same: To win.
“Whether we are playing against Spain at the Confederations Cup or playing against Liberia in a friendly match, I always tell the boys that victory is non-negotiable.”
With Nigeria and Algeria still in contention, it’s the first time that two African countries have advanced to the knockout stages at a World Cup. It could even set up an All-African quarterfinal at the Maracana if both teams win their second-round matches.
That’s of no interest to Keshi.
“We don’t even want to think of who might be lurking in the quarterfinals if we win, we are not bothered,” said Keshi in comments published by Nigeria’s football federation. “All we know is that we must win on Monday.”
Entangled in yet another African bonus-payment row, Nigeria’s players are keeping a low profile ahead of the France game. There has been no media access to them since Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Argentina that nevertheless secured a top-two place in Group F behind Lionel Messi’s side.
Key defender Godfrey Oboabona has been back in training since the start of the week after a foot injury and Keshi must decide whether the center back returns to the team in place of Yobo.
Babatunda also needs to be replaced, with Moses or Ramon Azeez likely to come in.
According to Nigeria’s federation, Nigeria has only played France once at senior level - in 2009 when the Nigerians won 1-0 in Paris thanks to a goal scored by Joseph Akpala.
By Orrin G. Hatch
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