Eagles Back In Essentuki

By Ikenga Chronicles June 23, 2018

The Super Eagles have flown back to their World Cup team base camp in Essentuki, advising that further drumming and singing be kept on hold until the final whistle against Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Victory took Nigeria to second place in Group D of the FIFA World Cup but the three–time African champions must avoid defeat against the desperate South Americans in the giant arena in Krestovsky to make progress to the knockout rounds.

Croatia top Group D with six points and a plus five goals advantage, with Nigeria second on three points and on an equilibrium on goals scored and conceded, while Iceland and Argentina lie further back with a point each. Croatia tackle Iceland at the same time (9pm Saint Petersburg; 7pm Nigeria) in Rostov-On-Don.

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Captain Mikel John Obi, who played through the pain barrier in the final minutes against Iceland, said the squad was fully concentrated on the match against Argentina which would determine further interest at the World Cup finals.

“We have celebrated the win yesterday but today is another day and the focus is on Argentina. That is the only thing on our minds now. It is important that we keep the focus and plan our strategy quite well.

“We thank Nigerians from all over the world for their support. Their faith in us and their belief in our ability have continued to propel us. We will set up very well against Argentina to get a result.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino watched the match at the Volgograd Arena, which was attended by 40,904 spectators. NFF President Amaju Pinnick, a Member of the CAF Executive Committee and Member of the Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions, sat with Infantino, and the full complement of the NFF Board was present.

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Nigeria’s number three man, Senator Bukola Saraki led the cheers, with the Nigerian Ambassador to Russia, His Excellency Professor Steve Ugbah; Permanent Secretary in the Sports Ministry, Mr. Olusade Adesola; Nigeria’s IOC Member Habu Gumel and; other Members of the Presidential Delegation. There were also Senators and Members of the House of Reps, led by Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, Chief Obinna Ogba and including former Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio.

Former NFF Presidents Anthony Kojo Williams, Dominic Oneya and Ibrahim Galadima; former NFF scribes Sani Toro, Tijjani Yusuf, Fanny Amun and Bolaji Ojo-Oba; Members of the NFF Congress; Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, Alhaji Abba Yola and Mr. Mainasara Illo; Members of the NFF Management and Staff; Directors in the Sports Ministry; NPFL club owners and; other stakeholders saw the game live.

As the Super Eagles were about to file into their team bus to head to the Volgograd Arena on Friday, striker Ahmed Musa walked up to NFF President Amaju Pinnick and said: “President, please there is no need to look worried. We will make you proud.”

Pinnick responded: “You guys should just go out there and put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. They love their Super Eagles.”

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Hours later, and after a dour first half, Musa remembered his pledge and firmly took matters in his hands, scoring two goals and rocking the crossbar as Nigeria descended on the Icelanders with vigour.

It is on record that the last four goals scored by Nigeria at the FIFA World Cup were by Ahmed Musa. Before Friday, the last two were in the game against Argentina in Porto Alegre, Brazil in June 2014. Nigeria eventually lost the final group phase encounter 2-3 but still progressed to the knockout rounds.

A year ago, the pacy forward was in the doldrums at English Premiership club Leicester City. He opted to return to former club CSKA Moscow, and has regained his form there. It was fitting that it was in front of the Russians that Friday’s spectacle was enacted.

Since winning the 2011 Africa U20 Cup of Nations title with the Flying Eagles in South Africa, Musa has never looked back. He has featured for the U23 team as well before promotion to the senior team, for which he has scored a number of crucial goals in 50 appearances. He is also presently Nigeria’s highest goalscorer at the FIFA World Cup, with Daniel Amokachi (2), Emmanuel Amuneke (2), Kalu Uche (2), Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory, 1), Samson Siasia (1), Finidi George (1), Mutiu Adepoju (1), Garba Lawal (1), Sunday Oliseh (1), Victor Ikpeba (1), Wilson Oruma (1), Tijjani Babangida (1), Julius Aghahowa (1), Yakubu Ayegbeni (1) and Osaze Odemwingie (1) all trailing behind him.

On Tuesday, two–time world champions Argentina, who have only a point from their first two matches and a deficit of three goals, and with early elimination from the World Cup staring them in the face, must confront a man they know so well: Ahmed Musa.

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