Super Eagles captain John Mikel Obi said last night Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir accepted that the ball struck the hand of Argentina’s defender Marcus Rojo in the 82nd minute, despite not awarding the penalty.
A penalty-kick at that time could have wrapped up a second round ticket for the Eagles and sent Argentina packing.
Speaking after the match in St Petersburg, Mikel said: “I asked the referee if he thought the ball struck Rojo’s hand and he said ‘yes’. The referee told me that the ball came off Rojo’s head before it hit his hand.”
Mikel added: “I then asked Cakur why he didn’t award the penalty to Nigeria, he said: ‘ I don’t know.’ That was sad because we checked the match video in the dressing room and it was a clear penalty kick.
“When the ball touches your hand in the penalty box, it’s a penalty. No two ways about that. Maybe he didn’t want to give us the second penalty. It is sad we had to exit the competition this way.
Victor Moses had scored from the spot to cancel out Lionel Messi’s fantastic opener, but Marcus Rojo volleyed home expertly in the 86th minute to shatter Nigerians’ hopes.
Speaking about his future with the national team, Mikel said he would be most delighted to lead the boys going further into the future.
“I’m happy playing with this bunch of players. I expect them to grow into a great side and I think this team would make a good impression in the next four years. They are good boys with bright futures,” he said.
“Of course, we did everything we could; we pushed and pushed to get the goal but it was not to be.
“We want to thank all Nigerians for their support; and we have to keep going.”