The Super Eagles of Nigeria ensured that qualification for the knockout stages of the ongoing World cup in Russia is still within reach as two goals from Ahmed Musa earned Nigeria a 2-0 victory over Iceland in their World Cup encounter in Volgograd.
Nigeria offered absolutely nothing during a lacklustre first half but the second stanza was an entirely different kettle of fish, the Super Eagles played with purposefulness and were incisive in attack.
Out of favour Leicester City striker Ahmed Musa turned on the style after the break, first finding the roof of the net with a brilliantly-taken half-volley before a fine individual effort doubled the Super Eagles advantage.
The win means that a point against Argentina may well be enough for Gernot Rohr’s charges to qualify from the group in second place while Iceland who missed a penalty through Gylfi Sigurdsson during the closing stages of the encounter must beat Croatia to keep alive any hope of advancing into the knockout stages.
The defeat of Lionel Messi led Argentina by Croatia on Thursday night meant that both teams were aware that three points would be massively crucial to securing qualification into the round of 16 and the Nordic nation Iceland was the team that looked more threatening and forceful right from the blast of the referee’s whistle.
Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson played a sumptuous free-kick which was tipped over the crossbar by Nigerian goal stopper Francis Uzoho as early as the second minute and the Iceland playmaker squandered yet another glorious opportunity on the edge of the box with his weak curler being easily gathered by the young Nigerian keeper.
However, Iceland failed to keep up the momentum they started with and the Super Eagles were just satisfied to keep possession without showing much intent or desire to cause havoc in the final third of the opponent, the first half saw very limited goalmouth action as both teams offered very little going forward.
As the first half drew to a close Iceland got yet another great opportunity to open the scoring when Alfred Finnbogason failed to apply a decisive touch to Sigurdsson’s set piece from the right.
Within the two minutes of injury time, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson also wasted an opportunity with the Reading forward heading wide of the far post after getting on the end of a corner delivered to the back post.
Nigeria had offered nothing during the first 45 minutes but the Super Eagles quickly opened the scoring at the start of the second period, with Victor Moses bursting down the right flank before finding Ahmed Musa who took a sublime first touch before blasting a half-volley into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
Iceland was still making life difficult for Nigeria in the final third but the Africans were looking more dangerous on the counter-attack, and Wilfred Ndidi almost added a second with a 30-yard strike which was tipped over the crossbar.
At the Nigerian end of the field, Rurik Gislason curled a shot off target from around 20 yards out and the Super Eagles stepped up the tempo and took the game to their opponent as Leon Balogun almost added a second with a glancing header which went just over the bar.
Musa then rattled the Iceland crossbar with a long-range shot but moments later, the forgotten Leicester City forward scored a superb second as he outpaced Karl Arnason and rounded Iceland goalkeeper Halldorsson before firing into an empty net.
Iceland looked like a team that has already given up but with 10 minutes left on the clock, they were offered a lifeline through a penalty, thanks to VAR decision by the referee after Tyronne Ebuehi fouled Finnbogason inside the penalty area.
However, Sigurdsson fired his spot-kick well above the crossbar, and it left Nigeria in a position to comfortably see out the remainder of the encounter with little resistance from the Icelandic team and leave their World Cup fate in their own hands.
NIGERIA (4-2-3-1): Uzoho; Omeruo, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Idowu (Ebuehi 46′); Mikel, Ndidi; Moses, Etudo (Iwobi 91′), Musa; Iheanacho (Ighalo 85′)
ICELAND (4-4-2): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, R.Sigurdsson (Ingason 65′), Magnusson; Gislason, Gunnarsson (Skulason 87′), G.Sigurdsson, Bjarnason; Finnbogason, Bodvarsson (Sigurdarson 71′)