Football: Okocha could be the key for Nigeria

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The Independent Online
ARGENTINA meet Nigeria this afternoon at the Foxboro Stadium, near Boston, in what amounts to the unoffical championship of the southern hemisphere.

The South American champions and the African champions have already emerged as two of the teams of the tournament, and whoever wins today's Group D encounter can start looking forward to a second-round match in the same stadium.

The key for Argentina lies in midfield, where Fernando Redondo and Diego Simeone will be hoping to establish a solid base and dictate the pace, while the 33-year- old Diego Maradona will be looking for opportunities to link up with the strikers, Gabriel Batistuta and Claudio Caniggia.

Argentina's coach, Alfio Basile, said his team would not alter their game to cater for the Nigerians, and in particular their outstanding forward Rashidi Yekini: 'We won't put a man on Yekini. I'm not going to change,' Basile said.

Nigeria's Dutch coach, Clemens Westerhof, may take the opposite course of action in trying to deal with Maradona. Hinting that his attacking midfielder, Augustine Okocha of Eintracht Frankfurt, might be given the man-to-man task, Westerhof said: 'You don't put a woodpecker on Maradona, you put a star on a star.'

Okocha, who is nursing a minor knee injury, said he was not sure if he would play, but that if he did, 'Maradona will also have to mark me. I'll play when I have the ball.'

ARGENTINA: Islas (Independiente); Sensini (Parma), Caceres (Real Zaragoza), Ruggeri (San Lorenzo), Chamot (Foggia); Simeone (Seville), Redondo (Real Madrid), Maradona (no club), Balbo (Roma); Caniggia (Roma), Batistuta (Fiorentina).

NIGERIA (probable): Rufai (Go Ahead Eagles); Eguavoen (Kortrijk), Iroha (Vitesse Arnhem), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), Nwanu (Anderlecht); Okocha (Eintracht Frankfurt), Amokachi (Club Bruges), Oliseh (Reggiana), Amunike (MSV Duisburg); George (Ajax), Yekini (Olympiakos).

Referee: B Karlsson (Sweden).