Nigeria bounce back against Iceland
Heading into their second World Cup game of the tournament against Iceland, nobody really gave Nigeria a chance at picking up the three points and coming away with a much-needed victory. Alas, against all of the odds, the Super Eagles were able to register a 2-0 win that brings them right back into the race to qualify for the knockout stages. A draw against Argentina in their final game would put them on the verge of reaching the last 16, depending on whether or not Iceland can spring another surprise and defeat runaway leaders Croatia. Before that, though, their performance against the Europeans in Volgograd deserves some appreciation.
To say their backs were against the wall would be an understatement, with the squad knowing that a defeat against the ultimate underdogs would mean that their World Cup journey would come to a premature end. Throughout the course of the first 45 minutes, there wasn’t much of a reason to believe that they were going to pull it off, as they became the first team of the tournament to fail to register a shot in the first half. Iceland weren’t much better but you could sense that they had more of a confidence about them in the wake of their point against Argentina, and yet when the second half began, the Africans looked like a completely different team.
They were quick on the ball, they moved it around nicely, and they were able to find their rhythm against an Iceland team who had looked pretty solid throughout their previous game and a half of football in Russia. It was the first time we’d seen a team genuinely play their heart out when they’re on the verge of elimination – and wind up getting results. Ahmed Musa, who many fans thought should come into the side, opened the scoring after controlling the ball brilliantly and smashing it into the roof of the net. He came close again not long after, too, rattling the bar as the Super Eagles stepped up the pressure. Then, after a phenomenal run, Musa got his second goal as he took the ball around Hannes Thor Halldorsson before slotting home Nigeria’s second of the day.
Iceland’s silver lining finally arrived late in the game when they were awarded a penalty courtesy of VAR, but unfortunately, star man Gylfi Sigurdsson wasn’t quite able to pull another rabbit out of his hat. Ironically enough the result will please Argentina fans around the world who are still hopeful of progressing into the knockout stages, but for Nigeria, it’ll give them the confidence that they so badly needed. Now, they’ll take on the 2014 WC finalists knowing that they have no reasons to fear them as they sit in 2nd place with just one game remaining.