Nigeria's creative young midfielder Lukman Haruna is certainly not short on self-confidence. When coach Lars Lagerbäck left him out of a provisional squad for the World Cup because John Obi Mikel was fit, the 19-year-old made his doubts perfectly very clear. "I would have expected that a few of the young midfielders would have been given a chance if only to train with the team in South Africa, but that was not the case," said the player, who first caught the eye as captain of his nation's under-20 team.
When Mikel's knee injury ruled him out of the tournament Haruna was called into the ranks, scoring his first international goal in the 1-1 draw with Colombia on 30 May. After showing some of the creativity that is perceived to be lacking in a fairly defensive midfield, he stands a good chance of starting against Argentina at Ellis Park this afternoon.
Lagerbäck is likely to opt for a 4-5-1 against an offensive side like Maradona's, and with central midfielders Dickson Etuhu, Sani Kaita and Ayila Yussuf all solid ratherthan imaginative, Haruna is on hand to provide a creative foil.
One cloud on the horizon for Haruna is that he has shown signs of a dubious temperament in the past. He received a great deal of criticism after being sent off, as captain, in the first half of the first game at last year's Fifa under-20 World Cup.
He has also been accused of preferring the money and renown of playing for Monaco over the pride of representing his country.
However, Haruna has worked hard on his game at Monaco, curbing his attacking instincts to play a more defensive midfield role, and perhaps it is this discipline more than anything that has convinced those in charge that he is ready to make the step up.
Nigeria will rely on the tall right-footer's ability to link up the play between the midfield and the forwards in what looks like a formidably tough opening game for the African nation.
Monaco coach Guy Lacombe has a major influence on his development – though Harana, with customary confidence, puts much of that down to himself.
"I have worked my socks off in training and the reward is that the coach has given me my chance in the first team, playing me in top games like against champions Bordeaux, and that has done my confidence a world of good," he said. He managed a total of three goals at Monaco last season. "I'm adapting to my new role quickly because I wish to make a name in this game."
Information provided by The Scouting Network, a specialist agency which provides of information for the leading clubs in Europe.Reuse content