Nigeria rode on a wonderful brace from Ahmed Musa to keep themselves — and Argentina — alive for the knockouts with a 2-0 victory over Iceland at the Volgograd Arena on Friday.
Both came from counter-attacks, when Iceland deployed more men upfront in search of a goal. Their players ran hard but often misplaced passes and Nigeria did the rest, benefiting from the mistakes. But the biggest mistake of the night and one that came at a very crucial juncture was from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 83rd minute — missing a penalty that could have put the ‘Vikings’ back into the game.
Having gone behind twice in the second-half, Iceland raged up attacks but hardly threatened the Nigeria goal, whose one mistake could have proved costly in the end. Alfreð Finnbogason — Iceland’s only World Cup goal scorer — was tripped by substitute Tyronne Ebuehi as the former chased a ball that had almost gone out of play. It looked a ridiculous foul and although the referee Matthew Conger signaled a goal-kick, he reversed his decision after VAR had been referred to.
It however was of no use to the World Cup debutants after Everton midfielder Sigurdsson blew his shot over the bar and Nigeria breathed a sigh of relief. The ‘Super Eagles’ had done their job though, scoring twice in the space of 30 minutes after going the entire first-half without a shot attempted, a half they stroked the ball as any bypasser would do.
Things however looked different as they came bombing down in the second, needing only four minutes to find the net. Kelechi Iheanacho started a quick counter, passing the ball to Victor Moses before Musa scored. The Leicester forward showing immense control upon receiving the cross from the former, before thunder-bolting it into the goal.
Then 25 minutes later they had their second, from another quick counter. This time it was Kenneth Omeruo clearing another Icelandic attack with a long-shot that found Musa on the left. The 25-year-old did the rest, running and running fast before beating a charging Hannes Halldórsson with guile and firing the ball into the top left. This was the first time Nigeria scored twice in a World Cup match ever since the 2-0 victory over Greece in 1994.
It left a huge mountain for Iceland to climb and although they had earned the penalty nine minutes before the final hoot, it wasn’t meant to be and now after a gritty 1-1 draw against Argentina in the previous match, they face a must-win situation against Croatia in their final group game.
Nigeria on the other opened up their chances of qualifying and need just a draw to enter the knockouts.