Iwobi Opens Up On Super Eagles’ World Cup Prospects, Okocha Impact, Wenger’s Arsenal Departure

Nigeria forward Alex Iwobi is upbeat the team will make a big impact at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.

The Super Eagles have high hopes going to Russia 2018 having navigated through a tough qualifying group that had African heavyweights Algeria and Cameroon.

No African nation has ever won the World Cup, but the Arsenal star has not stopped believing.

“The way we qualified in the group made us very confident,” Iwobi told CNN Sport.

“We’ve played against some big teams, some big countries, so we are very confident that we can go far.”

Gernot Rohr’s men will face two-time world champions Argentina, 1998 semi-finalists Croatia and debutants Iceland in Group D.

Argentina and Croatia parade some of the best players in the world at the moment and Iwobi, who scored a brace in Nigeria’s 4-2 win in a friendly encounter against the South Americans last year, said winning the upcoming tournament is something he has discussed with his teammates.

“Of course, we’ve mentioned it and talked about it so many times in training, on the coach, in the hotel room,” Iwobi stated.

“But we will take it step by step. Our coach always reminds us that we’re not there yet. We need to prepare right. We’ve done well to get this far, so just be relaxed, be cool and wait for when the times comes.

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“It’s always been a dream to play in the biggest competition and there’s no bigger competition than the World Cup to me.”

Having represented England at youth level, Iwobi made his international debut for Nigeria in 2016 and is now a regular feature in a young and exciting Super Eagles side which includes the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi and Moses Simon.

The nephew of former Fenerbahçe, PSG and Bolton Wanderers star Jay-Jay Okocha, Iwobi fondly remembers watching his uncle play in England.

“My family used to go up to Bolton and Hull to watch some matches,” he added.

“My favourite memory is probably just watching him in training, just watching how he is. Everyone knows what he’s like on the pitch but to actually see what he does in training when I was younger used to fascinate me … he’s always been a role model.”

When Okocha played for the Super Eagles, the family would “just scream at the TV,” Iwobi revealed.

“It depends where they are,” Iwobi replied when asked if the family would do the same this summer. “If they’re in the stadium, they’ll be relaxed and cool. If they’re at home, they’ll be screaming and all the neighbours will hear.”

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Iwobi also talked about Arsenal’s departing manager Arsene Wenger who handed him first start for the Gunners aged just 18.

“I was very young, I was like a scholar,” he recalls. “He was always saying to me to enjoy your football, express yourself, and if you make a mistake just continue and be positive.

“Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how they deal with it and you just have to keep going. That’s the best advice he’s given me.”

The focus now is on giving his mentor the best send-off possible after 22 years of service.

“The club without Arsene is going to be strange,” says Iwobi. “He deserves the recognition that he should get.

“We are going to do the best for him until the end of the season.”

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