LAGOS - Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi, making his debut at the World Cup finals, will be crucial in determining how far Nigeria go in Brazil.
According to former Nigerian coach Samson Siasia, Mikel and forwards Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike will be the central players for the African champions.
"Mikel will be key for Nigeria, having played at the highest level for a top club like Chelsea for many years. Such an experience should count for something," he said.
But Siasia, who featured for Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, said he was concerned that the 27-year-old Mikel and some of the Super Eagles' top stars had not been first-team regulars at their clubs.
"The biggest problem (for the team) is that most of the players did not play regularly for their various clubs and this cannot be good for the team.
"What you can do when the players come together for the training camp for the World Cup would be mostly tactical and so I don't know how (coach Stephen) Keshi will go around this problem."
Former Nigerian striker Benedict Akwuegbu also said he expected Mikel to play a big role and described him as "the engine room of the Eagles' midfield".
Mikel, who missed the last World Cup finals because of a knee injury, is a holding midfielder at the English Premier League side but is given a freer, more attacking role for his country as Lazio youngster Ogenyi Onazi does all the grafting alongside him.
He was voted the second-best player at the 2005 FIFA Under-20 World Cup behind Lionel Messi.