Ahmed Musa — ‘I know I can fly’
Lightning struck twice and both were named Ahmed Musa.
Facing elimination, Nigeria’s Super Eagles powered their way back as contenders who may reach the second round of the World Cup when Musa scored two spectacular goals in the team’s 2-0 victory over Iceland in Group D play today in Volgograd, Russia.
The Super Eagles played with poise in the first half, a great
improvement from their entire game last Saturday when they lost 2-0 to Croatia through self-inflicted setbacks; an own-goal and a bone-headed foul that resulted in a penalty.
Iceland had better scoring opportunities in the first half and could have gone into halftime by a goal or two had it not been for Nigeria’s solid defense and great saves by the 19-year-old man-child goalie Francis Uzoho who appeared calm throughout the game and ready to foil any attempt. Nigeria was able to reach striking distance of goal several times but the crosses in the first half were lame and presented no threat at all to Iceland’s goalie Hannes Thor Halldorsson.
There was no hunger, there was no greed, there was no determination to thunder the ball into the back of the net by Nigeria.
All that changed in the second half when the real Super Eagles showed up. Within a minute of the beginning of the second half a Nigerian forward was dashing with abandon towards the penalty box and taking a shot at goal.
Truly it was a new beginning, with crisp meticulous passes to force Iceland to start holding back a little. This allowed Nigeria to start building the offense from their half of the field rather than booting long passes forward and hoping for the best. It was clear that the Super Eagles were finally having fun.
The rewards started coming. A long run on the right wing led to a feed into the box by Victor Moses where Musa trapped the ball instead of striking it on-the-go. This move upset the running-flow of the Icelandic defenders tracking him. Before they could recover, Musa had unleashed a half volley beating a lunging defender and goalie Thor Halldorsson.
Finally the back of the net was shaking for Nigeria. The greed was back. Nigeria smelled blood.
Soon Thor Halldorsson was making a desperate leap to push a curling sizzler over the crossbar. Within minutes, he had been beaten by a powerful curling shot from outside the box by Musa, but, lucky for him, it struck the crossbar and bounced harmlessly back into play.
Musa was now relentless and he struck again. Dashing furiously from the left side and shrugging off a defender who tried to grab him, he cut into the box towards the right, faked the goalie who was sprawling to his left to cover the angle, and suddenly it was Musa facing two defenders and too much real estate. Calmly –Pele and Maradona would both be impressed– Musa then set up his shot with his right instep; he blasted the ball at an angle away from the defenders and into the back of the net.
Suddenly Nigeria was up two goals to nil.
The best thing is they continued to play hard and nearly scored at least four more times.
Iceland got a gift in the dying minutes when a review reversed an on-field call by the referee and awarded them a penalty. But the Gods were smiling on the Super Eagles and the penalty kick by Gylfi Sigurdsson soared over the crossbar.
Could Iceland have been invigorated by a goal? After all, stoppage time ended up being six minutes. Even then, on this day, Nigeria’s defense seemed impenetrable and goalie Uzoho had decided that he didn’t want the back of his net disturbed.
The Super Eagles now go into their game against Argentina with great confidence. The three points from today’s win elevates them to the second spot in their group, with four teams. The top two qualify for the second round. A win over Lionel Messi’s team would take the Super Eagles to the second round.
In other games today Brazil beat Costa Rica 2-0 and Switzerland defeated Serbia 2-1 in a thrilling finish.