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Yobo aims to do Nigeria, and Africa, proud at World Cup

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Joseph Yobo looking forward to World Cup
  • Joseph Yobo tells CNN he is excited to be playing at the World Cup in Africa
  • Yobo will captain Nigeria in the tournament
  • He says playing so close to home can inspire his Nigeria side
  • Nigeria face Argentina in their first game on June 12

(CNN) -- Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo says the fact the 2010 World Cup is being staged in Africa can inspire his team to greater heights.

Yobo will lead his country into the tournament in South Africa aiming to erase the disappointment of 2006, when he and his country failed to qualify for the finals in Germany.

The defender, who plies his club trade with English Premier League side Everton, says the fact the competition is in his home continent will add an extra dimension for Nigeria's players.

In an exclusive interview Yobo told CNN anchor Alex Thomas: "The World Cup is coming to Africa and it is very special. In South Africa we have loads of Nigerians staying there -- it's like our second home.

"It's very special in Africa because it is bringing out Africa as a continent -- especially South Africa the host country -- and we're playing close to home and are very excited about that.

"Its a great opportunity and we want to make sure this time -- we don't know when an African country is next going to be host -- we prove a point and we show how good African teams are, especially Nigeria.

"Now we are playing close to our fans, close to our home and family and everyone is looking forward to it. There is great expectation and we believe this is the right time if we want to show this area can do something."

We want to make sure this time we show how good African teams are -- especially Nigeria.
--Joseph Yobo, Nigeri captain

After a long season with Everton, Yobo's attention now turns to the game's biggest prize, and he insists the pressure that comes with playing for a football-mad country is the same as any of the tournament's so-called bigger sides, something his Premier League colleagues have trouble following.

He said: "They don't understand what we go through in Nigeria -- you have an ultimatum of what is expected. For the last African Nations Cup they said if we don't get to the final or semifinal then we are no good.

"There is always expectation because of what players in the past have done and we just have to try to better that or match it and it is very, very difficult. It's not every player that can stand up to that.

"Playing for Nigeria, a nation of over 550 million, football is like a culture so when you do well you're a big hero but when you don't do well it's like you don't want to go back home. We've just got to throw in everything we have got to make sure we make Nigeria proud, and not just Nigeria, Africa as a whole."

Nigeria could hardly face a more difficult opening game, taking on much-fancied Argentina on June 12 in Johannesburg. But Yobo thinks his team can deal with Argentina's star player -- Lionel Messi -- before tackling their other opponents, South Korea and Greece.

"Messi is unbelievable and just seems to get better and better," Yobo said. "Every time he's on the ball you know something is going to happen. He deserves to be the world's best.

"Its going to be very, very difficult, I think we have to do things as a team rather than as individuals. The way he plays he finds his freedom on the pitch which makes him exceptional but if we defend as a team and keep our position and keep our concentration for 90 minutes, hopefully we can do it."