Soccer-Freak injury might rule Nigeria's Babatunde out of World Cup


By Angus MacSwan

June 25 (Reuters) - Nigeria midfielder Michel Babatunde looks likely to miss the rest of the World Cup after he was struck on the arm by a powerful shot from team mate Ogenyi Onazi in their 3-2 loss to Argentina on Wednesday.

The incident occurred in the 66th minute with medics bounding up the player's arm while he lay on the pitch before taking him away on a stretcher.

"I think he's got a broken hand and he's going for surgery right now as we speak," Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. "So I'm not sure if he's still going to participate in this World Cup. But we'll see how he goes. But it's not good."

The injury marred an otherwise good day for the African champions, who reached the World Cup last 16 despite losing their final Group F game to Argentina.

They qualified as Bosnia beat Iran, meaning the four points the Super Eagles had collected so far were enough to see them through as runner-up.

"I only got the (Bosnia) result after the game. I just wanted to pay attention to what my players were doing," Keshi told reporters. "I feel honoured, I feel happy. I just want to thank the players and the fans."

The two sides treated a stadium packed with Argentine fans to an action-packed game which blew away the memory of lacklustre performances in their previous two outings.

Keshi paid tribute to Argentina's Lionel Messi, whose two goals helped defeat a team that until then had not conceded in the tournament.

"Messi is one heck of a player, you can't take it away from him. There are good caliber players in the Argentina team but Messi is from Jupiter."

Nonetheless, he said, Nigeria lost because they gave too much respect to the Argentines in the first half and did not play their own game.

"The good thing is we came out in the second half, tried to play our football, and had better possession, knocking the ball around. It was good. The first half...that's not the way we play. We like to attack."

Two fine goals by Ahmed Musa were also a reason for Nigeria to be cheerful. The first was a super strike from just inside the penalty box just a minute after Messi had opened the scoring for Argentina only three minutes into the game. (Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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