Deadly Ahmed Musa struck two stunning goals to sink Iceland 2-0 on Friday and then promised to do the same to Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Tuesday’s Group D showdown.
The Leicester City striker, currently on loan at CSKA Moscow, became the first Nigerian to score at two World Cups as the Super Eagles secured a crucial win over Iceland, who missed a penalty.
He scored both goals in Nigeria’s group stage 3-2 defeat to Argentina in Porto Alegre, Brazil, four years ago and is relishing the chance to do it again.
But this time he hopes it will knock out the South Americans.
“I think scoring against Argentina isn’t that difficult for me,” he smiled after his man-of-the-match performance in Volgograd. “We know the importance of the game. It’s do-or-die.”
The African side will secure a spot in the knockout stage alongside Croatia if they beat Argentina.
A draw would be enough to eliminate the Argentines but would leave Nigeria’s fate resting on the outcome of Iceland’s game against Croatia which kicks off at the same time.
Musa also scored twice for Leicester in a 4-2 pre-season friendly defeat against Messi-inspired Barcelona two years ago and said he always scores when up against the Argentine superstar.
“I can remember four years ago when Messi played in Brazil I scored two goals,” he recalled.
“And when I transferred to Leicester I played against Barcelona and he’s on the pitch and I scored another two goals.
“So I think next game anything can happen — possibly I’m going to score another two goals,” he laughed.
Former Super Eagles captain and head coach Sunday Oliseh has canvassed for total support for the team ahead of today’s (Friday) crucial Group D clash against Iceland at the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup in Volgograd.
Gernot Rohr’s men went down to a 2-0 defeat against Croatia in their first game at the Kaliningrad Stadium last Saturday.
The West Africans must avoid defeat against Iceland to avoid early elimination from the competition.
Croatia have already sealed a place in the knockout stages from the group after beating Argentina 3-0 on Thursday.
“I implore you, If there is ever a time when we all have to come together ,pray and support the super eagles, it is today vs Iceland,” Oliseh tweeted on Friday morning, hours before the match billed to kick off at 4pm Nigerian time.
“I believe our boys will win, they need our full backing & prayers. “With Argentina faltering,a win could just usher us the path to the 2nd Round.”
John Obi Mikel, Nigeria captain admits the Super Eagles have to improve quickly if they are to make an impact at the World Cup.
The Super Eagles lost 2-1 to England in a friendly at Wembley on Saturday.
Nigeria was punished for a dismal first half display as goals from Gary Cahill and Harry Kane put England in control.
Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi pulled one back for the visitors after the interval, but Nigeria couldn’t find an equaliser despite their improved second half performance.
Mikel knows Nigeria have to sharpen up in Russia if they to get through a tough group featuring Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.
“We are a very young team and we have to learn, it is good for this young team to have a taste of what we are going to face in Russia,” Mikel said.
“We have to learn together as a team, we have to improve and that is why we played this game against such a quality side.
“We can know where we are and now we go back to training and try and improve.”
Coach Gernot Rohr agreed with Mikel’s assessment that Nigeria has much to work on.
But the Nigeria boss blamed their slow start on fatigue caused by a difficult journey to England and rain that stopped them training the day before the match.
“The first lesson is we are not ready yet. We have to work much more in the two weeks before our first game,” the German said.
“We missed totally the first half but the preparation wasn’t good.
“We couldn’t train on Friday because of rain, the pitch wasn’t good. We arrived after a 10 hour flight, with many stops.
“In the first half our usual formation didn’t work. Some of our players weren’t fit and England put the pressure on us.
“This bad beginning was an opportunity to change and play a bit more like England in the second half. It was much better.
“Also we changed four players. Unfortunately we can’t change four players if there is a problem in the World Cup.”
Meanwhile, former Chelsea midfielder Mikel saw enough from England to feel he can back Gareth Southgate’s team as potential World Cup winners.
“I think they have a very good chance of going all the way because the youthfulness and energy in this team… you can feel it,” he said.
“I think the pace in the team, you can feel it, and that is why we had some problems in the first half.
“In the second half we corrected some mistakes and played a lot better. I think the England team have a good chance.”
Players and officials of Nigeria’s senior national football team, Super Eagles were on Wednesday at the presidential villa for a farewell meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, ahead of their trip to Russia for the World Cup.
The team is lead by NFF President, Amaju Pinnick.
The session was earlier slated for Tuesday evening.
It would be an opportunity for the president to wish the three –time African champions well on their way to a sixth appearance at football’s biggest showpiece.
The meeting is coming hours before the eagles are due to fly to London for a pre-World Cup friendly against England’s Three Lions at Wembley Stadium on Saturday evening.
From London, the delegation will fly into Bad Tatzmannsdorf, a city in Austria where they will spend eight days at the world–renowned Avita Resort before flying to Russia.
In-between the final camping in Austria, the team will play a final pre-World Cup friendly against the Czech Republic at the Rudolf Tonn Stadium (just outside Vienna) next Wednesday.
Captain Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa are among the Super Eagles 30-man provisional squad released by Gernot Rohr ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The 30-man provisional squad was published on Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Twitter handle on Monday.
Home-based goalkeepers Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Dele Ajiboye, Francis Uzoho and Daniel Akpeyi made the cut.
There is also the surprise inclusion of Crotone striker Simeone Nwankwo and Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) top scorer with 18 goals Junior Lokosa.
Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, who is recuperating from a hamstring injury, is also included.
Others who made the list are Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Elderson Echiejile, Bryan Idowu, Shehu Abdullahi, Ola Aina, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, Uche Agbo, Stephen Eze, Tyronne Ebuehi, Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho, Kenneth Omeruo, Chidozie Awaziem, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joel Obi.
Meanwhile Henry Onyekuru who just returned from injury and Victor Osimhen were not listed. Olanrewaju Kayode, who has been in fine form with Shakhtar Donetsk is also not included.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria moved up the ranking five table from 52nd to 47th position in the latest FIFA world ranking released on Thursday.
The ranking was published on FIFA’s official website.
The Eagles’ friendly games against Poland and Serbia was a pivotal reason for their rise in the rankings. They secured a 1-0 win against Poland away from home before losing 2-0 to Serbia in London.
In Africa, the Super Eagles are now in the sixth position.
There was no improvement for the Eagles’ 2018 Group D World Cup opponents as they all dropped places.
Argentina dropped one spot to fifth, Croatia dropped three places to 18th and Iceland dropped to 22nd.
For the Eagles’ 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E opponents, only South Africa moved up as Libya and Seychelles dropped.
South Africa rose four places to 72, while Libya and Seychelles dropped to 100th and 194th respectively.
In the top 10 ranked countries, World Cup holders Germany remain number one, with Brazil in second, Belgium are third, Portugal are in fourth and Argentina fifth.
In sixth position are Switzerland, France are in seventh, Spain in eight, Chile in ninth and Poland in 10th.
The next Coca Cola FIFA World Ranking will be released on May 17, 2018.
Former Super Eagles striker Ayodele Makinwa reckons there is a lot of work to be done in every department of the team if they are to surpass their best finish at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Super Eagles have never moved passed the second round at the World Cup, the same stage they reached in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
But ahead of the Super Eagles sixth appearance at the World Cup in Russia, Gernot Rohr’s men were not especially spectacular in their performances in friendlies against Poland and Serbia.
The Super Eagles defeated Poland 1-0 on Friday before losing 2-0 to Serbia in their second game on Tuesday.
“Friendly games are meant to try out various players and patterns to know how prepared they are for the World Cup but the players featured showed us so many lapses,” Makinwa, who regularly featured for the Eagles in the mid 2000s, told CSN.
“The Super Eagles were not impressive but it’s good this is happening now as there’s still time to correct some of the shortcomings.
“But I believe they can improve as they still have some more games to prepare.
“The defence still looks shaky with some players missing which should not be, likewise the midfield.
“If they don’t improve we will struggle in Russia.”
The top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation(NFF) have paid a very heart warming visit to Super Eagles goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
Wolves goalkeeper Ikeme had been the super Eagles first choice before the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup preliminary fixture against Swaziland and the first match of the group phase against Zambia in Ndola.
But in some few months ago, he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia after returning “abnormal blood tests” during pre-season testing at English Championship club Wolverhampton Wanderers and had to undergo chemotherapy.
On Monday, as the Super Eagles prepared for tonight’s World Cup friendly against Serbia in London, President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, led a delegation of NFF top shots and team staff to visit Ikeme at The Christie Clinic in Manchester, where he is being treated, the NFF said in a press release on Monday.
In the delegation also were NFF 1st Vice President, Seyi Akinwunmi, General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, Super Eagles’ Team Administrator, Dayo Enebi, Eagles’ goalkeepers’ trainer Alloy Agu and team media officer, Toyin Ibitoye.
Pinnick said: “We have come on behalf of the Government of Nigeria and the NFF to check up on you, find out how your recovery is going and to tell you that you are still very much on our minds and a member of the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
“We have also come to seek your permission to be our special guest at the pre- World Cup friendly game against England at the Wembley Stadium on 2nd June. We want you to perform the customary kick-off of that game and if you approve of it, we will immediately request this of The Football Association.”
Pinnick further assured the goalkeeper that he would be fully captured in the team’s financial benefits for Nigeria’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup “as we all remember the role you played in helping us get off to a winning start in the final phase of qualifiers in Ndola against Zambia.
“We believe this is just a phase that will pass away. You will come out of it stronger and still be able to do what you love to do the best, both for your club and the Super Eagles of Nigeria.”
Enebi, said: “On behalf of the team, we want to reassure you of our love. The entire team would have been here to see you if we were not playing against Serbia. Coach Gernot Rohr, the technical and backroom staff are all praying for your speedy recovery. The team asked that I present this autographed jersey, signed by all the players, to you. It is our new kit for the World Cup.”
Agu, who is a former Super Eagles goalkeeper, said: “As your goalkeeper coach in the national team, I know you are a fighter, you never give up. I believe these attributes will see you through. We will always be there for you as you recover from this illness.”
An ecstatic Ikeme, moved by all the kind words, responded: “I am so overwhelmed by this show of love. I am indeed grateful to Nigerians who daily flood my phone with prayers and well wishes. I feel their love everywhere, everyday, on social media. I thank the Government of Nigeria and the NFF for all the support and I appreciate my teammates so much for being there for me.”
Serbia coach Mladena Krstajic says his team will have to step up their game to overcome the powerful Nigeria in their friendly match at The Hive Stadium in London on Tuesday, but believes they can play themselves to winning the game.
Serbia was defeated 2-1 by Morocco in their Russia 2018 World Cup preparatory fixture at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino in Turin on Friday, and the upset Eagles manager Krstajic has told his charges to go all out and beat Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
Nigeria defeated Poland after Victor Moses converted a penalty in their World Cup warm-up clash at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw on Friday.
Krstajic will look to adopt a familiar 4-3-3 formation for today’s game with Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic or PAOK’s Aleksandar Prijovic leading the scorer of the team’s only goal against Morocco Dusan Tadic and Filip Kostic in the attack.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is likely to stick with the 4-4-1-1 formation which helped his team to nullify the threat of Poland’s Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski, West Brom midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak and Borussia Dortmund right-back Łukasz Piszczek against Serbia in London.
Former Werder Bremen defender Krstajic, who is desperate for a win to instil confidence in his team ahead of Russia 2018, urged them to go all out for a win.
“Nigeria have a solid team with many of the players playing for European clubs,” HotSport.rs quoted the former Schalke 04 star as saying on Monday.
“I expect a good reaction from our players and I think with good concentration, we can achieve a good result.
“I repeat, the most important thing is the result, everything else is irrelevant.”
He added, “Nigeria have a lot of good players, we expect a very tough game, physically very demanding. So, we must prepare well and make everything look better than against Morocco.”
Southampton’s Dusan Tadic also admits they face physical opponents in London.
Nigeria have a lot of good players, we expect a very physically game,” Alo.rs quoted the forward as saying. “They have players in Leicester and Chelsea, they are physically dominant, fast and strong.”
Meanwhile, Nigeria captain Mikel Obi has ruled himself out of playing in the encounter as he is yet to resolve his work permit issue in China.
The Tianjin Teda star could not travel to Poland for Friday’s fixture in Wroclaw due to the problem, and the former Chelsea midfielder has now confirmed that he will also miss today’s clash against Serbia.
The 2012 UEFA Champions League winner wrote on his Instagram account on Monday, “Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control I will not be on the field for our game v Serbia tomorrow (Tuesday). I am sad, and frustrated, but giving my full support to the team for another WIN!.”
Rohr has since invited Turkey-based midfielder Mikel Agu to replace the ageing player.
Nigeria midfielder Ogenyi Onazi says the Super Eagles will be up against a very fast Polish side when both countries meet on Friday night in an international friendly.
The Super Eagles and Poland are using the clash as preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
After the game against Poland, the Super Eagles will be in London to take on another World Cup-bound team Serbia on Tuesday.
“It’s always good to play against strong teams with big players as well,” Onazi, who should captain the Super Eagles in the absence of Mikel Obi, said during a pre-match press conference on on Friday night.
“It will be a nice time for us to play against them and I am looking forward to the match. For Poland, they are all European teams, they play similar patterns and they have fast players.”
Onazi, who was a member of the Super Eagles squad that got to the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, stated that playing against Poland and Serbia, is also a chance for Gernot Rohr to assess fringe players in the Super Eagles.
He added: “As our coach has said earlier, it is an opportunity for him to see other players as well. So this is a good opportunity for us for some of the players that have not played so much in the national team.
“It is left for him to make the decision for the players who are going to play but for us the two friendlies will help us.”