first_imgNigeria put Iceland’s World Cup hopes on ice after substituting a purposeless first-half performance with an attacking intent to record a much-needed win in Russia.Nigeria made up for 45minutes of lethargy with four minutes of energy and two well-structured attacks to test the goal keeper for the first time in the game.Former Tottenham Hotspurs boss Tim Sherwood advice from inside the Supersports studio in South Africa during the break was spot on. ‘These guys are not good at possession football. They are fast off the ball and need long passes’.And Nigeria enacted this advice on the pitch to devastation. All goals, deadly pieces of counter-attacking football.Nigeria from defending a throw-in deep in their half, Victor Moses gained possession and pace darting along the right unhindered. His cross was plucked out of mid-air by Ahmed Musa’s foot and he allowed the ball to kiss the grass lightly before unleashing a shot into the net. His second would come barely 20 minutes later. Once again, a pass, Stoke-City style, from the Nigerian defence that had absorbed virtually the entire Iceland team found Musa high up the pitch.Giving the defender a run for his money, Musa run down the right and rounded up the goalkeeper for the easiest of finishes.It could have been more if Ndidi’s 58minute rocket against the bar from Coutinho’s favoured position is allowed for points for its brilliance.And Alex Iwobi wobbled in front of goal to shoot directly into a player when he had superior support all round him in the 85minute. The Super Eagles did  everything right which they could not do in the first half with a second half performance that was a superb graffiti to cover a very disappointing first halfNigeria played a 3-5-2 formation that allows the team to reap goals from ripe chances if you have quick wingers with lots of stamina.And Nigeria had it in Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Idowu who operated up and down the wide areas so the Super Eagles could flood the attacking areas, strangle the midfield and outnumber the opposition when defending.It was similar to what England played against Tunisia and turned up two-goal winners.But Nigeria nearly messed up the tactic in the first half with the bad habit of purposeless passing in their first match against Croatia resurfacing. They looked tentative on the ball and often waited for Iceland to run back into their defensive shell as if counter-attacking football was a new FIFA offence.Nigeria lacked the creativity of their jersey’s fashion designer as they were slow to construct an attack and when it was rarely fast, it broke down just as fast from either a faulty Moses cross or some other player’s pass.Nigeria passed more but completed less while Iceland passed less but completed their more. Nigeria had more possession but did less. Iceland had less but did more and the Super Eagles could not muster a single shot in the first half against Iceland’s six.Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson sidefooted a tame shot into the Uzoho’s arms in the 6minute and when the goalkeeper later clawed away a cross in the 21minute cross into his box, the rebound fell to Bjarnason who rammed his shot into Moses to leave the Chelsea attacker writhing – save it for Nigeria. A quick-transitioning Iceland demonstrated clear intent with the ball as their thundering fans dwarfed the fact that this is a nation of 335,000 citizens.But with better crosses and an eye for set-pieces, the smallest country in Russia was having a good time against the most populous nation in Africa.Iceland’s 45th minute freekick from about 18 yards from the right teased several players to roll away, ending the first half too soon from their perspective.They headed into the tunnel knowing the game was there for the taking. But it was Nigeria who took it.The spectators know what happened in the first half but only the players would know what happened in the dressing room as Nigeria returned a completely different team. Idowu was replaced by Tyronne Ebuehi but for the spectators, the actual substitutions were that, blunt purpose came on for dull hesitation and long passing replaced shorter.Under one minute Etebo cut the grass with his low shot but Hannes Halldorsson saved easily. But he stood little chance barely three minutes later when Ahmed Musa blasted his shot into the net.It was Nigeria from then as Iceland began to see their real size as the gulf between a first-timer against a fifth timer began to show.Iceland despite all the promising set piece opportunities could not take the best of such chances when woeful African defending gave them a penalty. Gylfi Sigurdsson would have felt the way Messi felt after he missed his penalty in the opening game against Iceland.Sigurdsson shook off the goalkeeper completely but his 81minute shot was wide to deny themselves a much-needed revival.His miss would save Tyronne Ebuehi from a full-blown dressing down in Nigeria as the Super Eagles rescued a campaign that had several question marks on the opening day.Nigeria had two sets of supporters – home fans in Nigeria and away fans in Argentina as a win for Nigeria saved the South Americans as well as the West Africans.And so from an Argentine perspective, one step for Nigeria, one giant step for Messi’s Argentina.last_img

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