Shittu keen to shine in South Africa

14 May 2010 09:50
Danny Shittu may be Bolton's forgotten man, but he could find himself the centre of attention this summer.

The central defender has been out in the cold at the Reebok Stadium and forced to settle for reserve-team outings.

However, the 29-year-old's long experience of English football has seen him retain his place in the Nigeria squad. He first came to the nation's attention in 2002 when brothers Alex and Matt Winton financed QPR's signing of Shittu from Charlton for £200,000.

Eight years on he is bracing himself for a potential clash with arguably the world's finest player, Lionel Messi.

Nigeria have been paired in Group B alongside Messi's Argentina, South Korea and Greece. Shittu is already looking forward to the challenge in South Africa and said: "It has worked out well for us.

"We have got Argentina first and everyone is going on about Messi, and that's what the World Cup is all about for me.

"It is about going out there, having a good time and making something of yourself, so I am looking forward to it.

"The main part of it for us will be whether we can be mentally strong because who in the world doesn't watch the World Cup?

"All the eyes are going to be on you and as a football player you have to be strong enough to handle that.

"I have played for my country in other tournaments and felt up to it, but this is the biggest test there is.

"It does not matter what tournament, what opposition or what game you are playing, people back home expect Nigeria to win every single game.

"Realistically, if we can get out of the group stages and into the quarters or semi-finals then I think we can be happy with that."

The terrorist attack on the Togo team coach in Angola before the African Nations Cup has raised fears about security during the tournament.

But Shittu believes those fears are unfounded.

He said: "We know that South Africa has its own problems, like any other African country, but I am sure the World Cup organisers will make sure everything is fine.

"After what happened in the African Nations Cup everyone was calling to ask 'Are you okay?'

"That kind of thing should not be happening. When you play in African countries you have security round you 24/7.

"I know people are concerned about security, both watching the games and playing in them. I just think it is one of those things they will have to get right and it will be a good tournament."

Former Sweden coach Lars Lagerback has been handed the task of taking Nigeria to a higher level and Shittu is quietly confident they can progress to the knockout stage at least.

He said: "We would definitely want to beat Greece and then South Korea would be the key game after that. But our mindset is that we can beat Argentina.

"We cannot leave ourselves too open because they have got some great players aside from Messi, who can turn a game in an instant.

"They have got Diego Maradona managing them too and I don't think there is a lot he can't tell you about playing World Cup football.

"South Korea are a really good team and I'm sure they'll be targeting a win against us. They did well in the 2002 World Cup and beat the Ivory Coast recently as well."

Source: Team_Talk

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