Mikel, who is married to a Russian woman Olga Diyachenko, revealed that his Russian family, relatives, and friends were earnestly rooting for Super Eagles to be at the World Cup next year, adding that he was optimistic that Nigeria can earn a place at the global finals.
The Tijanjin Teda of China midfielder, who spoke to FIFA. COM said:
“My wife is Russian and many of our relatives and friends are from Russia. They are all expecting Nigeria to qualify for the next World Cup. I think they will kill me if I fail them,” he added, laughing.
“We are in a very good position in our group. We have two wins from two games, and in our last game, we beat Algeria at home. We have a very good young team and the players play good football. If we can win our next match (at home to Cameroon on 31 August) it will edge us closer to qualification. I think we can go through.”
As might be expected given his role as captain, Mikel Obi had figured prominently in Nigeria’s qualifying campaign thus far. Notably, he scored one and set up for another in their most recent triumph: a 3-1 win over Algeria in November.
The former Chelsea star who had been sidelined over the months by injury vowed to do everything within his power to be fit for this vital upcoming doubleheader.
“I had maintained good form until this injury,” he said. “So it was a shame. But this is part of the game and now I am focusing on recovery and on coming back stronger. I will do whatever I can to get fit to play for Teda and my national team.
“This Nigeria team look up to me for advice. My team-mates miss me and they need me. As the captain, I want to fulfill my role and help them with my experience.”
“The next World Cup in Russia will be a fresh chance for us but, first, we have to make it there. Then the next challenge will be to make sure we enjoy an even better tournament in Russia than we did in Brazil.”
Nigeria is already four points clear of second-placed Cameroon and five ahead of Zambia and Algeria in Group B.