Musa’s double downs Iceland as Nigeria come alive

Super Eagle: Ahmed Musa scored both goals in Nigeria’s 2 — 0 win over Iceland, in Volgograd. (Reuters)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Musa’s double downs Iceland as Nigeria come alive

  • Ahmed Musa, who came into the starting line-up in place of Alex Iwobi, announced himself with two of the goals of the tournament so far.
  • Iceland got a lifeline in the 82nd minute with a VAR-awarded penalty but dead-ball specialist Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed over the bar.

VOLGOGRAD: Ahmed Musa struck twice to become the first Nigerian to score at two World Cups Friday as the Super Eagles secured a crucial 2-0 win over Iceland, who missed a penalty.
The African side will secure a spot in the knockout stage if they beat Argentina on Tuesday in Group D’s final round of fixtures.
A draw would be enough to eliminate the Argentines but would leave Nigeria’s fate hinging on the outcome of Iceland’s game against Croatia.
Musa, who came into the starting line-up in place of Alex Iwobi, announced himself with two of the goals of the tournament so far.
Musa’s sweetly struck half-volley fired Nigeria into the lead just after half-time before he added a second with 15 minutes to go to make the Group D game safe.
Iceland got a lifeline in the 82nd minute with a VAR-awarded penalty but dead-ball specialist Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed over the bar.
With Croatia heading the group on six points Nigeria knew a second defeat would mean elimination and Iceland started brightest after coach Heimir Hallgrimsson changed to a 4-4-2 from the 4-5-1 he had used in the 1-1 draw with Argentina.
Alfred Finnbogason, who scored the equalizer against Argentina as a lone striker, was joined up front by Jon Bodvarsson and the pair quickly made an impact.
Captain Aron Gunnarsson launched a long throw into the box and, after Bodvarsson had made a nuisance of himself, a push gave Iceland a free-kick just outside the area.
Gylfi Sigurdsson struck it smoothly round the wall but 19-year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho was able to make the save high to his right.
Nigeria, with captain John Obi Mikel sitting deeper in midfield than against Croatia, slowly worked their way into the game with Victor Moses a constant threat on the right flank.
The pace inevitably dropped with the temperature still a stifling 31 Celsius at the 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) local time kickoff.
The match became a stalemate until 10 minutes before half-time when Iceland came close to opening the scoring but Leon Balogun’s glancing header just did enough to thwart Gylfi Sigurdsson and Birkir Bjarnason lurking at the back post.
And on the stroke of half-time Finnbogason came within a whisker of doubling his World Cup tally when he flashed wide Gylfi Sigurdsson’s whipped in free-kick.
Gerhot Rohr brought on wing back Tyronne Ebuehi for Bryan Idowu at the start of the second half and Nigeria came out full of running.
The tireless Moses was released down the right and his cross was met by Musa who teed up the ball deftly with the outside of his right foot before unleashing an unstoppable half-volley into the roof of the net.
As he wheeled away in celebration his knee caught Ragnar Sigurdsson in the back of the head and the Iceland defender needed treatment, a bandage and a change of shirt after sustaining a nasty cut.
Wilfred Ndidi forced Hannes Halldorsson into a fine fingertip save with a wickedly dipping shot from distance in the 58th minute.
Musa made the game safe with his second, controlling a long ball without breaking stride and beating Kari Arnason before rounding Halldorsson and powering his shot past two covering defenders on the line.


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.