John Obi Mikel is a key player in the Nigerian squad. He is on the duty to hold the midfield for the team. He will play in the "pivot" role. Mikel made his debut for Nigeria's senior team on 17 August 2005. He came on as a second-half substitute in a 1–0 friendly win over Libya. Mikel's first international start was in Nigeria's 2–1 victory over Senegal.
During the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana, Mikel scored a goal and made an assist, both against Benin Republic, helping Nigeria qualify for the quarter-finals against hosts Ghana, where they narrowly lost 2–1. During the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, Mikel finished the tournament as the second best player, behind Lionel Messi. He will be expected to hold the midfield in the match against Nigeria, in the same way he does it for his club.