- President excited, urges team to sustain current winning drive
By Duro Ikhazuagbe and Kunle Adewale in Volgograd
Two second half goals yesterday by Ahmed Musa at the ongoing World Cup at the Volgograd Arena, Russia, earned Super Eagles maximum three points against Iceland to revive Nigeria’s ambition of qualifying for the last round of 16 teams.
In a swift reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari sent a congratulatory message to the team, urging the players to sustain the winning momentum.
After a first half that was expectedly dominated by Eagles, Musa fired Nigeria into the lead in the 49th minute when he controlled beautifully a Victor Moses lob from the wing, before slamming home the lead.
Deep into the second half, Musa again dribbled his way into then Iceland box to score Nigeria’s second assurance goal.
The Iceland fans that were nearly 90 per cent of the 40,904 fans that attended the game became dumb with silence. They could no longer indulge in their traditional thunderous clap made popular at Euro 2016 in France.
Nigeria struggled to create clear-cut chances in the first half. After Ahmed Musa’s two goals the young Super Eagles gained a lot of confidence in their attacking efforts though. This will no doubt give them a huge boost ahead of the huge final Group D clash against Argentina on Tuesday. Nigeria has it in their own hands now to advance to the Round of 16. That’s all they could have asked for.
The Icelandic team lost the battle in the second half. Their energy levels were lower than those of the Nigerians and they lost too many individual battles everywhere on the pitch. One-on-one situations were indeed the moments where the Nigerian players were at their best.
Gylfi Sigurdsson who is Iceland’s most influential and technically proficient player reflected in the game but missed the penalty awarded the Nordic country after Ebuehi tripped one of their forwards. He fired his penalty over the crossbar.
The newly introduced VAR made the penalty possible as the centre referee, Matt Conger had earlier missed the infringement.
After an on-pitch VAR review, the original decision to award a goal-kick was overturned.
Also in the second half, Leicester City defensive midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi hit a cross bar in another effort that would have earned Eagles the third goal of the game Argentina who lost scandalously 3-0 to Croatia 24 hours earlier sent the coaches to spy on.
With the three points, Nigeria is now second on Group D behind leader Croatia on maximum six points. Argentina is third on same one point as Iceland but have superior goal difference with the Nordic nation.
Nigeria is to play Argentina whose camp has erupted in crisis as a result of the loss to Croatia on Tuesday. A draw will see Nigeria into the Last 16.
President Buhari, according to his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, was excited by the confidence, discipline, team-work and indomitable spirit displayed by the young Nigerian players.
Adesina said Buhari urged the team to sustain the current winning momentum by going all out against its last group opponent, Argentina, next week.
He was quoted as saying, “I am confident that if our players believe in themselves, they can qualify out of their difficult group and even go very far in the tournament,” adding: “with determination, nothing is impossible.”
Adesina added that the president urged all Nigerians to continue to support the team with prayers and other necessary ways.