Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa produced two outstanding goals against an outclassed Iceland, to keep three teams in with a chance of capturing the runner-up spot in a tightly-poised World Cup Group D.
The 25-year-old Musa, who has endured a torrid two years after failing to settle at Leicester City, and returning to CSKA Moscow on loan, showed no sign of rust, and leaves Nigeria’s fate in their own hands when they play Argentina in St.Petersburg on Tuesday.
Following its hard-fought draw with the South, Iceland found itself in the unprecedented front-runner position against the African side, which had looked shockingly lackluster in its opening game. A win in Volgograd would have made it favorite to progress at the expense of the two-time South American world champions, needing at most a draw in its final game.
But Nigeria, blessed with some of the most feted young talents in Europe in Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi, also realized that they had everything to play for, which made for a nervy, high-stakes encounter from the start.
Despite enjoying two-thirds of the possession, the green-kitted Super Eagles looked to blend with the pitch as they ponderously stroked the ball through the first half, in which they failed to unleash the speed of their promising attackers or launch a single shot on goal.
Instead, it was Iceland that looked the more dangerous, using long throws, penetrating diagonal balls, and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s set pieces to pressure a mass of hectic green shirts, though time and again the final toe-poke that would have slid the ball in the net was missing.
But Nigeria opened their first attack in the second half with a long-range shot, showing a greater directness.
The breakthrough came just two minutes later when Victor Moses found himself on the right flank after a sweeping counter-attack, and crossed it to Ahmed Musa, who flicked the ball up and lashed it past Hannes Haldorson.
And while Iceland needed the goal, it was Nigeria that was now playing with freedom and confidence, exemplified by Musa, who ran into the area from the flank, rounded the keeper, a stroked a sweet finish into the top corner, to give the Super Eagles a cushion.
Iceland got a glimmer of hope with a late penalty, but the normally clinical Gylfi Sigurdsson put the ball well over the bar in a hopelessly misconceived attempt.
Nsanzimana Ernest ni Umwanditsi w’Ikinyamakuru Umuryango. Afite Impamyabumenyi y’Icyiciro cya Kabiri cya Kaminuza (A0) mu Itangazamakuru n’Itumanaho yakuye muri Kaminuza y’u Rwanda Ishuri ry’ itangazamakuru n’ itumanaho