Ahmed Musa’s second-half brace put Nigeria on the inside track for second place in Group D as the Super Eagles emerged with a 2-0 victory over Iceland on Friday in Volgograd.
Musa’s lash on the half-volley in the 49th minute completed a rapid counterattack that started when Kenneth Omeruo headed Aron Gunnarsson’s throw-in clear from the penalty area. Victor Moses was able to carry the ball unchallenged down the right side before crossing to Musa, who did well to deaden the ball with his right foot and let it drop before scoring from six yards with the same foot.
The CSKA Moscow forward added an important second on the stroke of the final quarter-hour, racing onto a long ball by Omeruo, rounding Kari Arnason into the penalty area and then waiting out Hannes Halldorsson before rifling the ball into the net.
Nigeria climbed into second place on three points and also threw a lifeline to Argentina, which is last in the group on one point with a minus-three goal difference and plays the Super Eagles to conclude group play.
While Iceland slips to third, ahead of La Albiceleste on goal difference, the Strakarnir Okkar will be left to rue Gylfi Sigurdsson’s missed penalty he blazed over the bar in the 83rd minute after VAR awarded the spot kick when referee Matthew Conger saw Alfred Finnbogason was fouled by Tyronne Ebuehi.
Iceland closes group play with Croatia, which is already through to the round of 16 and plans to overturn its starting XI to rest some of its key players as it is all but certain to top the group even with a loss. The Strakarnir Okkar will need to win that match and score at least two goals to reach the knockout round.
Nigeria, which looked so listless in its loss to Croatia, switched from a four-man back to a 3-5-2 set-up with Musa one of three new players in the starting XI for Gernot Rhor. But it took a full 45 minutes to contend with Iceland’s well-drilled banks of four as the Super Eagles failed to register a shot.
Iceland, meanwhile, started brightly as Sigurdsson had a curling 25-yard free kick parried by Francis Uzoho in the third minute and a low shot from 20 yards stopped shortly thereafter. Nigeria, though, yielded few quality chances after that, with Birkir Bjarnason volleying over the bar from 12 yards in the 34th minute.
The Starkarnir Okkar had one last quality chance, but Sigurdsson’s curling cross glanced off Finnbogason and wide of the left post in the 44th minute.
Musa has four World Cup goals, with the other two coming against Argentina in a 3-2 loss in group play in Brazil four years ago. All six of the Super Eagles’ victories at the World Cup have come against European sides.