By Semiu Osho
March 25, 2010 02:54AM
Adefemi Olubayo (L) confronts Lionel Messi at the finals of the football event of 2008 Beijing Olympics. Argentina won 1-0.

Super Eagles defender, Olubayo Adefemi has said Lionel Messi and the Argentina squad will face a hard time when they come up against Nigeria at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The Flea, as the World Footballer of the Year is called, has dominated global headlines with his scintillating performances that have culminated in a goals spree for Barcelona. Messi has a remarkable goal tally of 34 strikes in all competitions this season for the Spanish champions and he will be expected to confirm his status as the best player on the planet by leading Argentina to glory at the World Cup. As a matter of fact, Barcelona has 68 goals this season and Messi accounts for 64 in terms of goals and assists.

Lack of credible defenders in La Liga
Yet, Adefemi, who has come up against the diminutive player at international level on two different occasion says the youngster will not be able to bully the Eagles like he does to his opponents at club level.

” I have seen some of the games and I would not accept Messi can easily be going around our players like he mesmerises his opponents in Spain. Sometimes you look at the quality shown by the opposition in the Spanish League, you just have to laugh at how they allow him such pace and ease,” said the Boulogne defender who has lost in two different meetings with the Barcelona star.

Adefemi was in the Flying Eagles squad that lost 2-1 to a Messi-inspired Argentina U-20 squad in the final of the 2005 World Youth Championship in Holland, and the U-23 Eagles that surrendered the Beijing Olympic football gold medal to Argentina in 2008. Messi was once again the anchor man as he provided the pass Angel Di Maria converted for the only goal of the game.

“We all know he is a good player no doubt, I think people can still remember how we made life difficult for him at the Olympics. We lost both games narrowly because it was a close fight. I expect another big fight at the World Cup and honestly we will have to wait and see if he can enjoy those easy moves he is having in La Liga.”

The other Argentine strikers
Messi is not the only Argentine in top form as the trio of Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero have plundered close to 70 goals in the league in between them at club level this season.

It appears an intimidating scorecard considering the fact that our Eagles trio of Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obinna Nsofor and Obafemi Martins have only managed a combined total 12 league goals albeit with some injury problems in the course of the campaign. Osaze who has just begun a new season with his Russian Premier League side, Lokomotiv Moscow netted only seven goals in 23 appearances for his team last season and he has not scored in the two-week old new Russian league season.

Concern about Nigerian strikers
Samson Siasia, ex-Eagles international and former national coach, who had scored for the Eagles in their 2-1 against Argentina in Nigeria's maiden appearance at the 1994 World Cup held in the United States admits he is worried about the current performance of our strikers just over two months to the start of the global competition.

“You have to be worried as a coach when you look at the performance of our strikers just like you will naturally be happy if the goals are flowing ahead of the World Cup. It is better when the players are showing good form and we are hoping to see that from them as the World Cup gets closer,” said the former Flying Eagles coach.

Nduka Ugbade, who also played alongside Siasia in the Eagles squad that won the 1994 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia insists the players must improve with their form for the Eagles to have any chance of qualifying for the second round of the Mundial.

“We will have just about three weeks to prepare as a team for the World Cup and currently things are not at the level you expect from the players. I hope they attain high level of fitness as they will be moving to the national camp for the World Cup preparation immediately after the end of the season,” he said.