By Daniel Adeleke
Having gone down 2-0 in a very awful performance against Croatia in their first game, the Super Eagles were on the verge of joining African rivals Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia in exiting the tournament , if they lost to the formidable Iceland team on friday afternoon at the Volgograd stadium, and had to secure 3 points to stand a realistic chance of qualification to the next round.
The match started very slowly as Nigeria came into the game with new tactics. Our German coach opted for a 3-5-2 formation, with Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa pairing upfront, replacing Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi. This new tactic fared very poorly as Nigeria became the first team in Russia not to have a shot in the first 45 minutes.
Clearly something needed to be done.
After the interval, Nigeria were a different proposition as Musa, who ended last season at CSKA Moscow on loan from Leicester city, proved to be the difference having been recalled to the team after the disappointing defeat to Croatia.
Musa put on a one -man show as the Eagles got their first goal from a perfect counterattack. Iheanacho brought down a clearance from an Iceland set-piece before he fed it to Moses who moved the ball briskly, before he lofted in a cross to Musa, who brought down the cross from the air with his stretched foot before he lashed home a half volley to beat Hannes Hallorsson.
It was a moment of sheer delight as he became Nigeria’s highest goal scorer at the World Cup. And it was Musa again in his splendid glory, as the leicester city man, raced onto the ball beating Ari Arnason for pace, before checking to dribble his way past Halldorsson, to put Nigeria 2 clear of Iceland. And as much as Nigeria Were brilliant on the night, they conceded yet another penalty in their second group game in a row.
It has to be said, a good win for the boys against Iceland. But now Nigeria will have their qualification in their hands as they will face a slightly beleaguered group rivals Argentina. Nigeria should look to put away their knack for giving away cheap penalties and also look to put up a very commanding defensive display, against the likes of Messi, Dybala, Di Maria, etc when they face Argentina.
Nigeria would go into the final group stage match knowing a win will take them through to the next stage, regardless of results from the other group game. While a draw could also see the Eagles go through but they must have a superior goal difference to Iceland if Iceland defeats Croatia.
Nigerians will wait anxiously to see the kind of display the Eagles will put out but will only hope for a befitting one to avoid an early exit from the tournament.