John Mikel Obi believes the weight of pressure on Nigeria has increased since they won the African Cup of Nations in 2013.
The Super Eagles open their World Cup campaign later today when they take on Iran in Group F, looking to record a victory that would take them level on points with Argentina, who beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 yesterday.
Mikel is looking forward to the tournament having missed out four years ago through injury, and the Chelsea midfielder is confident Nigeria can progress to the knockout stages.
‘This is my first World Cup,’ Mikel said. ‘I want to make sure we achieve something coming here. We don’t just want to come and make up the numbers, we want to do well.
‘I have to make sure I lead by example. We are all driving in the same direction. We all know what we want and hopefully we will have a good tournament.
‘We know we’re the African champions and people expect us to do well, to represent the African continent. That’s a bit more extra pressure but it’s pressure that we love. We love to be African champions.’
Since the tournament kicked off last Thursday, with Brazil beating Croatia 3-1, there has been no shortage of exciting, attacking football on display.
Mikel, who is joined in the Nigeria squad by Chelsea team-mates Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo, feels his side can take heart from some of the results in other games so far.
‘We’re doing well, we’re doing everything we can, we’re preparing well,’ he said. ‘The result with Spain against the Netherlands shows anything is possible, so we have to make sure we approach games seriously and play well.’