Ahmed Musa Brace Gives Nigeria Crucial Win vs. Iceland at 2018 World Cup

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2018

Nigeria's Ahmed Musa celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd, Russia, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

Ahmed Musa scored twice as Nigeria beat Iceland 2-0 in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Volgograd Arena in Russia on Friday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson missed a second-half penalty for Iceland, who couldn't build on a bright start and remain level with disappointing Argentina at the foot of the group.

Lionel Messi and Argentina can thank Nigeria for keeping them in the World Cup, but they will need to beat the Super Eagles next time out, while hoping Iceland don't win against Croatia by "an equal or larger margin," per ESPN.com.

Iceland will attempt to slow unbeaten Croatia's winning momentum and steal a qualification berth when the pair meet in Rostov-on-Don on Tuesday, June 26. At the same time, Nigeria will be hoping they can inflict more misery on Argentina while counting on Croatia beating Iceland.


Ahmed Musa Offers the Scoring Threat Nigeria Need

Yes, Leicester City fans, it is the same Musa who cost your club £16 million in 2016 and flopped so badly he ended up on loan at CSKA Moscow this season. You can forgive Foxes supporters for being confused after the way Musa tore through the Iceland defence in a record-setting display.

Put into a new two-striker formation by coach Gernot Rohr, who wisely adopted a more proactive approach, Musa embodied all of the Super Eagles' best qualities, such as pace and direct running on the break.

Nobody got close to Musa whenever Nigeria countered swiftly. The forward was ably supported by Chelsea wing-back Victor Moses and Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who, unlike the Iceland back four, were able to keep pace.

It was Moses who crossed for Musa's opener four minutes after half-time to give the latter a distinction for his country:

Kwesé ESPN @kwesesports

The @NGSuperEagles' opener was Ahmed Musa's 3rd #WorldCup goal, the most ever by a #NGA player, and he is the first #NGA player to score in 2 different #WorldCup tournaments. #NGA 1 - 0 #ISL #KweseFIFA #KweseESPN #NGAICE https://t.co/rgxA34FwrP

There was more history when Musa found the net again 26 minutes later, this time being teed up by Chelsea reserve Kenneth Omeruo:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Ahmed Musa scores again for Nigeria, his 4th career World Cup goal. That's the 3rd-most goals by an African player in #WorldCup history. Most Career #WorldCup Goals by African Players 🇬🇭Asamoah Gyan 6 🇨🇲Roger Milla 5 🇳🇬Ahmed Musa 4

Another smart finish had those connected with Leicester dreaming of a lucrative summer sale:

James Sharpe @TheSharpeEnd


Musa provided the cutting edge a strong Nigeria team needs. There is ample power and pace, both wide and in central areas, but there has to be a legitimate scoring threat up top.

Keeping Musa in the starting XI alongside Iheanacho will give the Super Eagles the attacking edge they need to get past struggling Argentina.


Mikel John Obi More at Home in Deeper Role

Jose Mourinho is right. Mikel John Obi is no No. 10, but he can be effective when played deeper.

Manchester United manager Mourinho, who coached Mikel at Chelsea, told Russian TV Station RT (h/t Don Silas of Daily Post Nigeria, via KweseESPN's Colin Udoh) the Super Eagles "lost a great 6 to get a bad 10."

Mourinho was speaking after Nigeria lost their first group game 2-0 against Croatia.

Rohr hit back and defended his decision, per Udoh: "Mourinho is Mourinho. I worked with him for many years so he knows me very well. It's fascinating how when you have been doing something for over a year-and-a-half, nobody says something about it, but when you lose one game, there's a problem."

Despite his defiance, Rohr did start Mikel deeper, a decision supported by former Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie:

Peter Odemwingie @OdemwingieP

Happy to see Omeruo in the team. Love his fight. 3-5-2 formation today makes Moses feel same as in Chelsea where he looks great. Mikel in his most played position from the looks of it. 🙏🏽🇳🇬👊🏽

The move paid off as Nigeria were more secure defensively.

Although the Super Eagles didn't register a shot in the first half, they did dominate possession. Most of the steady passing started from deep, with Mikel doing what was needed to keep the ball moving.

Mikel went down late on, clutching his hand, but was able to see out stoppage time. Nigeria need their linchpin in the middle fully fit for Argentina.

Mikel conducted play brilliantly from deep.
Mikel conducted play brilliantly from deep.Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Utilising his key players in their best positions will be pivotal for Rohr if he is going to take this solid squad into the last 16 where it belongs.


Inconsistency Still an Issue for Gylfi Sigurdsson

Iceland fans naturally won't be happy with the result, but nor will Everton supporters, who will have again been left to bemoan the inconsistency of Sigurdsson.

It's fair to say the Toffees' decision to spend £45 million on Sigurdsson last summer proved a damp squib. Managers Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce both failed to get the best from an intelligent and technically gifted schemer.

New boss Marco Silva will be just as puzzled after seeing Sigurdsson's disjointed performance in Volgograd. The 28-year-old started wide right in Iceland's 4-4-2 setup but had the license to ghost off the flanks and roam into the pockets of space between the midfield and forward lines.

From there, the former Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur player created some early chances thanks to his wicked delivery from set-piece situations.

He forced 19-year-old goalkeeper Francis Uzoho into a smart early save:

CNN Sport @cnnsport

#NGA's Francis Uzoho impressed in the Super Eagles' opening game against #CRO. Just 19 years old, the goalkeeper has already been at full stretch to deny Gylfi Sigurdsson's free kick. https://t.co/go1BUdkxD7

Sigurdsson was dictating the game during the first half, performing like the player the Toffees thought they were getting in 2017:

Jeff Wallner @JeffWallner

@Everton fans watching @gylfisigurdsson today. #WorldCup https://t.co/qbZLuTSIt7

However, his levels dropped sharply after the break, particularly following Musa's opening goal. Frustration boiled over more than once for Sigurdsson, who couldn't trick his way past markers or slide passes between gaps.

His nadir moment came less than eight minutes from the end, when he shot high and wide from the penalty spot after a short run-up:

The Sportsman @TheSportsman

🌑 👨‍🚀 Current scenes on the moon after Gylfi Sigurdsson's penalty... #NGAISL #WorldCup https://t.co/YaPP69LxTH

Silva proved at Watford he knows how to use attacking midfielders, with Richarlison thriving on his watch for the Hornets. Yet Everton's new manager will surely be wondering about Sigurdsson's role and value after such a hot-and-cold performance.

Iceland will need their chief creative force at his best against a Croatia side already in the knockout phase. Sigurdsson's performance won't matter if Nigeria can use the same swift and strong counter-attacking to catch tumultuous Argentina cold.