Nigeria are expected to be drawn in a tough group for next year’s World Cup finals but coach Gernot Rohr insisted his players were ready for anyone.
The Super Eagles will be in pot four with the other lowest-ranked countries when the draw is made in Moscow today, ensuring they will face stronger teams.
Rohr, who was earlier this week handed a two-year contract extension for leading the country to Russia, said there were no weak sides in the 32-team field.
Anyone hoping to face “average teams” in the group phase was guilty of wishful thinking, he added.
“All the teams that are in the final draw, except the host nation Russia, played qualifying matches,” Rohr told the Nigeria Football Federation website.
“They all emerged from tough encounters and therefore none can be tagged ‘weak’.
“If you have to be listed among the best, you have to conquer the better teams and even beat some of the best.”
Nigeria – who have never gone further than the round of 16 – will “take it one match at a time”, he added.
The West African giants were undefeated in a tough qualifying group and beat two-time world champions Argentina 4-2 in a friendly earlier this month.
Nigeria emerged from a truly tough qualifying group, which included three of Africa’s five flagbearers at the 2014 World Cup.
The other one Zambia won the Africa Cup of Nations only few years before.
Also, all four were former Africa Cup champions, and Cameroon were even the Cup holders.
Between them, they had won 10 African titles Cameroon (5), Nigeria (3), Algeria (1) and Zambia (1).
During the week, statistical analysis of the teams in the Final Draw revealed that Nigeria used the youngest squad to qualify for the finals.
About two weeks ago, the three-time African champions came from two goals down to beat two-time world champions Argentina 4-2 in a friendly game.
“We don’t see that as more than a friendly, but what we took away was the capacity of the boys to respond appropriately to adversity, and I loved their reaction,” Mr. Rohr reflected.
The win brought back memories of Nigeria’s 4-1 spanking of the Argentines in another friendly in Abuja on June 1, 2011.
“Seriously speaking, every team has the right to dream. But we have our heads on our shoulders and our feet on the ground, and whatever draw comes, we will take it one match at a time.”
Today’s Final Draw at the State Kremlin Palace will start at 6 p.m. Moscow time (4 p.m. Nigeria time).
THE 32 TEAMS FOR RUSSIA 2018
POT 1: Russia; Germany; Brazil; Portugal; Argentina; Belgium; Poland; France
POT 2: Spain; Peru; Switzerland; England; Colombia; Mexico; Uruguay; Croatia
POT 3: Denmark; Iceland; Costa Rica; Sweden; Tunisia; Egypt; Senegal; Iran
POT 4: Serbia; Nigeria; Australia; Japan; Morocco; Panama; Korea Republic; Saudi Arabia