Bryan Idowu: Messi brings out the best in defenders

World Cup 2018 By: Lolade Adewuyi | 03/07/2018

Bryan Idowu Lionel Messi

Nigeria defender Bryan Idowu was handed the enormous task of following every move of Argentina star Lionel Messi during their game in Saint Petersburg on June 26. The Super Eagles lost the game 2-1 and exited the competition in the group stage. But Idowu, 26, reflected over playing against one of the best players in the world in this exclusive interview with

The Amkar Perm defender came under criticism for his lack of attacking foray after the defeat to La Albiceleste. Journalists questioned coach Gernot Rohr for keeping him in the game when he did not contribute to the Nigerian attack. In this interview, he explains the tactical setup and why he did not go forward like his opposite number, Victor Moses, who played in the right fullback position.

Tell us about your battle with Lionel Messi

It [was] hard, of course, because if you give him just a little bit of space, the first goal that’s how it happened. That was the only time I think we didn’t manage to stop him. He went behind and got the ball and scored. Afterwards, we tried to stop him and get the ball away from him but other players came in and helped him. Messi is that kind of player that keeps showing he can go anywhere. He is spectacular and a good dribbler; he’s the best player in the world for a reason. Just his presence opens up space for other players.

How difficult was it playing against Messi on your right foot?

I think it did not matter that much because Messi can go anywhere. Of course, he loves his left foot and will try to go to the left mostly. But if you try to leave him with space on the right he will still go there and then weave back. Just by the way he moves and turns and weaves around, it is just hard to think if you cover the left leg then you’re going to stop him. He can still move to the right and he scored today with the right leg. Mentally, he keeps you in the game with 100% focus because he can go anywhere. You have to try to play him as hard as you can. He brings out the best out of you as a defender as well.

How difficult was it not to be able to help move forward the attack from your fullback position?

On my side was Messi, so if I went forward, that meant more space for him. Victor Moses was the one that was meant to go further upfront on the right side and I was to stay behind on the left side because they had three strikers – (Angel) Di Maria, (Gonzalo) Higuain and, of course, Messi. We had three central defenders and they had three strikers so we could not afford for them to be one on one, so we had to have the fourth guy, who was me. Moses had the chance to try to press upfront and try to help the attack because he is still a more experienced player in the attacking role in the national team.

What’s your plan for the rest of the summer following Nigeria’s exit from the World Cup?

Just rest, we’ve worked very hard in preparation for the World Cup and at the World Cup. The season has just come to an end for us, I’ll relax with my parents, see my girlfriend and just rest.