Danny Shittu has revealed how a fear of failure will motivate Nigeria at the World Cup finals.

The Wanderers defender is currently training with the Super Eagles in Essex, where all-too-familiar problems with organisation continue to dog the team’s preparations for next month’s tournament in South Africa.

Due to play a warm-up friendly against Colombia on Sunday, Nigeria are still searching for a venue in the London area after being told that West Ham’s Upton Park and Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road were already booked.

Despite the inconveniences, Shittu remains upbeat about his country’s chances in a group that also contains Argentina, Greece and a South Korea side spearheaded by team-mate Chung-Yong Lee.

But he admits the pressure from supporters and press back home is unbearable – particularly given constant comparisons with Jay Jay Okocha’s Olympic gold medal winning team of 1996.

“The thing in Nigeria is that second best isn’t good enough,” he said. “It is very difficult playing under such pressure, because we are always being compared with the team that won gold in the Olympic Games.

“That’s why when we go into every tournament, we are expected to win. They don’t see that maybe we’ve got this problem, or these people aren’t involved, or that there is political stuff around.

“They want you to win, and if you don’t, it’s like ‘you guys aint good enough’.

“But I like that. I like to prove people wrong.”

Shittu made his Nigeria debut in 2002 against Paraguay at QPR’s Loftus Road alongside Wanderers legend Okocha, and established stars such as Celestine Babayaro, Kanu and Blessing Kaku.

And while comparisons with the golden generation are weighing heavy on the current squad, the big centre half acknowledges the debt he owes them as he made his way in the game.

“Before I got into football I used to watch Okocha and Kanu a lot – it feels like 40 years ago, and it might have been, you know,” he said.

“They were amazing. Jay Jay on the ball is something else, so to be able to watch them knowing they came from the same country as me was amazing. It’s why I got into football.

“I remember my first game, coming on for the last 20 minutes. I had trained with them and was like ‘wow’ but actually getting on the pitch was like a dream.

“These guys were so good at football they will be remembered forever. They are the kind of guys we look up to and want to follow what they have done in the game.

“But they were down to earth people, and they helped me a lot. I still speak to Jay Jay and Kanu now – they are really good guys.”

Nigeria qualified for their first World Cup two years prior to the Olympics, and have made three of the last four competitions.

Their stock has fallen slightly in recent years, however, and a place in South Africa was only sealed with a last-game victory over Kenya, coupled with a shock defeat for Tunisia against Mozambique. With odds of 100-1 against them winning the first tournament to be held in their own continent, Shittu admits the current squad have a tough task on their hands to please the public.

“I remember in the Nations Cup before we qualified through the group stages, we went into the last game of that having to win, as always,” he said.

“Every time anybody came up to you, all they would say is ‘you have to win’ and ‘you bring the cup home.’ “We got to the semi-finals this year. We should have got to the final in that Nations Cup but things happen. They were a great set of players who won at the Olympics but we are a new era. We are new group of players but I think we are good enough.”

Shittu failed to make a single first team appearance for Wanderers last season, and has been given extra training sessions by new Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback to get him in shape.

He played in the 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, and is expected to feature against Colombia once a venue is confirmed.

Taribio West – a veteran of two of Nigeria’s World Cup campaigns, believes Shittu will be an important part of the back four.

“The defence, with Danny Shittu and the rest is still a solid defence,” he said. “They may lack experience, but I know they are capable.

“With the experience of Joseph Yobo and Shittu, the back four can still bring security.”