Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu has responded to Argentina coach Diego Maradona’s calls for a foul play crackdown ahead of their Group B opener by stating: “We are here to play football.”
In a move belying his perceived inexperience as a high-level coach, Maradona took on the strategy of publicly demanding protection for his players before his side has even kicked a Jabulani ball at the World Cup.
The media tactic can be used to put extra pressure on referees come matchday and Kanu was clearly riled by Maradona’s attempts to influence proceedings. The veteran said Nigeria was “tough, not rough” and denied his side would adopt an overly-physical approach to stifle Argentina’s galaxy of stars in Saturday’s match.
“We are here to play football,” Kanu said. “Maradona can say whatever but they cannot change our team pattern or style. It won’t be a different match from the others. We are battlers but we will play football. We have to do whatever we have to do to make sure we win. It is not going to be an easy game, we are not going to make it easy for them.”