Football, John Obi Mikel, Marcos Rojo, russia 2019, Sport, Super Eagles, World Cup

Referee told me ball hit Rojo’s hand, says Mikel

Nigeria's midfielder John Obi Mikel. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Super Eagles’ Captain, John Obi Mikel, yesterday disclosed that centre referee, Cuneyt Cakir, accepted that the ball hit Marcos Rojo’s hand in the dying minutes of the World Cup match between Nigeria and Argentina, adding he was surprised the Turkish arbiter did not award a penalty to his team.

Nigeria lost 1-2 to Argentina in one of the last group D matches in St. Petersburg to exit the competition. The Eagles needed a draw against the Argentine team, which had only one point to Nigeria’s three going into the deciding game. With the victory, Argentina qualified to meet France in the second round of the World Cup holding in Russia.

Speaking after the game, which was tied at 1-1 until Rojo’s goal in the 86th minute, Mikel said, “I don’t understand how that wasn’t a penalty. If you compared it with the incident in the Portugal game, this was a clearer penalty than the one awarded to Portugal. We saw it again in the dressing room and it was a clear penalty.

“I asked the referee if the ball hit his hand and he said yes. He also said he did not know why it was not a penalty.”Mikel praised his teammates for putting up a gallant fight in the game, saying the squad had a bright future because of the average age of the players.

“In a few years’ time, this team will be ready for the big tournaments. I hope I can still be around with the team because this is a fantastic set of boys. It is the best team I have been with since I joined the national team in 2005. I have not seen a team so talented and eager to learn like this one.”On his future plans, Mikel said he would take things easy and see what the future holds for him. He added that his fitness would determine how long he remains with the team.

He also praised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for helping to build a successful structure for the national. He added: “The federation has been wonderful with the welfare of the team. Now we travel with good airplanes instead of the dodgy ones we were used to in the past. I think if we continued with the current set up, we will see a world class national team in the near future.”