World Cup scouting: Nigeria / Paraguay

by Matthew Wood

Nigeria return to the World Cup scene after missing out four years ago, they do so following an unbeaten qualifying campaign.

While Inter Milan starlet Victor Obinna faces tough competition to start in South Africa it could be hard to ignore the talented 23-year-old for coach Lars Lagerback.

After joining Cheivo in 2005 Obinna has become renowned for his strength, agility and trickery. Following Chievo’s relegation from Serie A in 2007 Obinna was expected to move on but his inspirational form helped to seal their place back in Italy’s top flight and prompted Inter Milan to invest in the Nigerian.

With 10 goals in 24 international appearances Obinna has shown he has the potential to succeed at the highest level despite his tender years. After spending the 2009/10 season on loan at Malaga (a move to Everton broke down due to work permit problems) the winger-come-forward has impressed, leading to calls for an inclusion at his parent club.

However, with more established internationals Nwankwo Kanu, John Utaka, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Obafemi Martins available to the Super Eagles it could be in a wide position where Obinna is given his chance to shine this summer.

Obinna, not simply a strong and pacy attacking forward, has also been recognised for his leadership skills with the captain’s armband in Nigeria’s 2008 Olympic Games campaign. The youngster flourished in his new role and scored three goals in a run that led the African’s to the final where they were beaten narrowly by a star-studded Argentinean team that included Lionel Messi.

Although Obinna is more likely to appear on the flank for Nigeria his goal threat, and consequent athletic celebrations, could become a worry for Argentina, Greece and South Korea in Group B.
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After finishing third in South American qualifying, in a campaign that saw wins over Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay make their fourth consecutive finals appearance.


Despite only gaining Paraguayan citizenship in April this year Lucas Barrios has wasted little time to make an impact on the national team.

The centre forward has scored two goals in two World Cup warm-up games as he looks to cement his place in Gerardo Martino’s starting XI. Barrios, one of several Argentine-born players in the Paraguay squad, has already taken in eight club sides despite only starting his professional career in 2003.

The 25-year-old may have been raised in Argentina but came to prominence in another part of South America, Chile. It was at Cobreloa where Barrios scored 26 goals in 39 games, attracting attention from one of Chile’s biggest sides, Colo-Colo. The striker didn’t disappoint and netted an impressive 49 goals in 53 games.

Interest from Europe soared and Barrios made the move to Germany with Borrusia Dortmund. His progression continued in the Bundesliga with 19 goals to his name last season, finishing third highest scorer in the league.

A tall and imposing forward, Barrios is adept at linking play and able to hold the ball up well for his team mates. His finishing can also not be disregarded, as implicated by his excellent goals to games ratio.

The 25-year-old is one of the rare breed of strikers that truely can come alive in an instant and can need just one half opportunity to make his mark.

Barrios’ impact has been such that star player Roque Santa Cruz could well find himself on the right-side of the Paraguayan’s attack. Although natives are said to be unhappy with the inclusion of so many Argentine-based players in the squad, Barrios goals could help him become an unlikely fan favourite.

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