'Strong rival' - Mascherano concerned about Flying Eagles counterattacking threat, physicality 

Published: May 30, 2023
'Strong rival' - Mascherano concerned about Flying Eagles counterattacking threat, physicality 

Argentina U20 coach Javier Mascherano has warned his players to be wary of the threat Nigeria pose on the counter-attack ahead of Wednesday evening's FIFA U20 World Cup round of 16 tie at the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario, San Juan.


Mascherano also noted that the Flying Eagles are blessed with players with physicality, and have a good pedigree in the FIFA U20 World Cup, having finished runners-up twice in 1989 and 2005.


The former Liverpool and Barcelona midfielder is aware that Los Cebollitas will be facing a strong rival who finished third in a complicated Group D, level on six points with Brazil and Italy. 


Nigeria showed their counter attacking prowess in the build-up to Jude Sunday's goal against Italy when the winger nipped in and showed terrific composure to get his angle spot on and guide the ball home in stoppage time to seal the win. 


Still in the same game, Emmanuel Umeh collided with an Italian defender Gabriele Guarino but showed his physical presence by springing straight up before lifting the ball to Salim Fago Lawal who headed home the opener. 


Mascherano emphasized that Argentina have to control the game by being in possession of the ball. 


Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mascherano was quoted as saying by ESPN: "Nigeria is a strong rival, especially physically . We know the record it has in these categories. It is a classic in this competition.


"We have analyzed it, you have to be very careful with your direct play, with your players in the middle forward and above all, in their transitions because they can do a lot of damage.


"It is a team that will be waiting when we have the ball, to recover and come out of counterattack .


"Running we are not going to beat them. It is essential that the ball be ours . I imagine a game in which we have control through possession and from there, go attacking as a block and not with players off the hook.


"Doing that implies a long team and with that Nigeria takes advantage of us. We must go phase by phase".


Regarding his starting lineup to face Nigeria, Mascherano is keeping his cards close to his chest and plans to announce the team on Wednesday. 



Ifeanyi Emmanuel 



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