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Idowu celebrates his goal for Nigeria in a friendly against Group D opponents Argentina.

Nigeria’s Brian Idowu thought playing in Russia would see him passed over for World Cup

Nigerian defender Brian Idowu believed that playing for his club in Russia would see him passed over for a place in the national team for this year’s World Cup, he told Reuters, after having made the provisional squad.

“I was only focusing on my career and never believed my country will notice me, because I was playing in Russia and ensuring my club win games,” Idowu, who is Russian-Nigerian and plays for FC Amkar Perm, said late on Sunday.  The left-back was born in St Petersburg to a Nigerian father and half-Russian, half-Nigerian mother.

Nigeria, known as the Super Eagles, are ranked 47th by FIFA and face Argentina, ranked fifth, Croatia (18) and Iceland (22) in Group D in the tournament in Russia. The team’s best efforts have included reaching the round of 16 three times, in 1994, 1998 and the previous World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

This year’s squad has acknowledged they are “underdogs”, who need to play not as individuals but together to take on a tough group, including Argentina and their talisman, Lionel Messi.

“We are not playing Messi but Argentina, it’s all about team work, with or without Messi, and our focus is to perform better in the World Cup,” said forward Ahmed Musa, who also plays in Russia for CSKA Moscow.

“We have to be looking at the quality of our players – and I believe we are going to Russia to do well – and not the quality of other countries’ players,” he told Reuters.

Nigeria play a friendly game against Democratic Republic of Congo in the Niger Delta city of Port Harcourt later on today.

On 2 June, Nigeria also face off against England in a friendly match at Wembley Stadium.

A version of this report was first published by Reuters.

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