Embrace ‘proper planning,’ Mikel tells NFF

John Obi Mikel (C) of Nigeria controls the ball next to Lars Bender (L) and Sven Bender of Germany during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games men’s semifinal football match at the Arena Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 17, 2016. Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP

John Obi Mikel (C) of Nigeria controls the ball next to Lars Bender (L) and Sven Bender of Germany during their Rio 2016 Olympic Games men’s semifinal football match at the Arena Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil on August 17, 2016.<br />Miguel SCHINCARIOL / AFP

Super Eagles captain and Chelsea’s midfielder, John Mikel Obi has urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), to embrace ‘proper planning’ and learn from recent mistakes, as they bid for a third successive World Cup appearance in Russia.

The Super Eagles landed in Zambia barely 22 hours before their 2018 World Cup qualifier on 9 October after financial problems delayed the squad.

Nigeria, captained by Mikel, won Olympic bronze despite arriving just hours before their first match in Manaus because of transport issues.

Speaking with the BBC Sport yesterday, Mikel said: “I don’t think anything can beat the problems that we faced at the Olympics. I don’t think any team or country can go through what we went through in Brazil and perform the way we did.”

“I think it’s a miracle [their unorthodox journey to Olympic football bronze] and I don’t think it will ever happen again.

“To arrive at a tournament a couple of hours before your first game and still end up with a medal was an outstanding team performance.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the same problem [arriving on match day] we are facing now, but it is still the same issues that need to be sorted out,” said Mikel.

Three-time African champions Nigeria are top of Group B in their qualifying race for Russia after a hard-fought 2-1 win in Zambia.

But Mikel, who made a scoring debut for his country at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations against Zimbabwe, believes hitch-free preparations will boost their chances of clinching the group’s sole ticket.

“For us to succeed we need to put things in place as early as possible and let the players focus on football, and not dealing with issues like flight and other things off the pitch,” he said.

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