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Ahmed Musa scored a brilliant second-half double to fire Nigeria to a 2-0 victory over Iceland and throw the second qualification spot in Group D wide open with one game remaining.
The Leicester City forward banished memories of a dreadful first half to put the Nigerians ahead four minutes after the interval when he expertly controlled a Victor Moses cross from a rapid break and rifled into the top corner past Hannes Halldorsson.
The Iceland goalkeeper was left flat on his backside for Musa's excellent second 25 minutes later, when the Nigerian collected a long ball on the left win, jinked around one defender, dummied past Halldorsson and then drove out of the reach of two Iceland players standing on the line.
Iceland had a prime opportunity to pull a goal back with 10 minutes remaining when VAR correctly overturned the referee's initial decision and ruled William Troost-Ekong had fouled Bjorn Sigurdarson inside the box. Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson confidently stepped up to take the penalty, but blazed his effort over the crossbar.
The victory moves Nigeria up to second in the Group D table on three points behind Croatia (six points), with Iceland and Argentina on one point apiece. Lionel Messi's Argentina, who have been way below par in their first two matches - a draw with Iceland and defeat to Croatia last night - have been handed a lifeline with this result.
Nigeria, who had been woeful in losing to Croatia in their World Cup opener, were similarly ineffective for the first 45 minutes here, failing to muster a single shot in the first half.
But they came out all guns blazing a the start of the second period, the lively Oghenekaro Etebo testing Halldorsson within 30 seconds of the restart.
Nigeria grew in confidence and created more openings as the game wore on and Iceland tired in the Volgograd heat, Musa's pace proving too much them to handle. The Leicester man, who spent last season on loan at CSKA Moscow, led the charge as Nigeria racked up 16 second half shots.
The result means Group D is the only of the four groups to have played two full rounds of matches in which every team is still in with a chance of making the second round.
These two teams don't play again until Tuesday, when Iceland face likely group winners Croatia and Nigeria play Argentina. The games happen simultaneously so that nobody has an advantage in knowing the other result before they play.
It's all to play for.
Something happens to Iceland at half time...
- First half shots: 13
- Second half shots: 4
- First half shots conceded: 11
- Second half shots conceded: 32
A game of two halves
All 16 of Nigeria's shots came in the second half. What a team talk it must have been.
Full time - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
That's it. What a result for Nigeria and Group D has been blown wide open. With a game to go, this is how it looks:
That means Croatia have basically won the group. Nigeria, Iceland and lucky, lucky Argentina can all still make the next round.
90 mins +4 - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Mikel is in a bit of trouble here. He goes down holding his wrist and grimacing and ends up needing a bit of treatment. Dr Martin Keown's diagnosis is thus: "I thought he had cramp but it looks like he's broken something."
Mikel comes straight back on.
90 mins +4 - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Iceland really could have got something from this game. Another good move breaks down here after a poor cross from Saervarsson.
90 mins +3 - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Iwobi gets his first touch of the ball as Nigeria look to wind down the clock with a bit of possession.
90 mins - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Time is running out and surely Nigeria have this one in the bag, but they are not a team to try and see the game out. Ndidi comes hurling forwards from deep and tries another shot from distance, this time it's blocked.
Alex Iwobi will come on for Etebo for stoppage time, of which there will be 6 minutes.
87 mins - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Another good chance for Iceland, this time for Finnbogason on his left, and he just lets the angle get too narrow, so it's an easy enough save for Uzoho in the end.
87 mins - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Another Iceland sub: Skulason is on for Gunnarsson.
84 mins - Nigeria 2 Iceland 0
Nigeria have the wind up them and are going after more goals. Musa comes forward and has teammates both ways. He thinks better of shooting and feeds Iheanacho, but he shoots just wide from the edge of the box.
A sub for Nigeria, as Ighalo replaces Iheanacho.
Short run up, Sigurdsson goes for the top corner but he just leans back too far and sends the penalty over the bar!
VAR REVIEW - PENALTY TO ICELAND
Nigeria enjoy a spell of possession, but Iceland nick it and break.
It's a good move and ends with Sigudarson going down under Ekong's challenge. The referee waves it away but after being instructed to take a look at the TV replays he gives it! A lifeline for Iceland!
GOOOOOOOALLL! Nigeria 2 Iceland 0 (Musa)
Musa doesn't have to wait long for his second! Omeruo clips a straight ball down the line over the top for Musa to chase. He has the legs on Arnason and all of a sudden he is away. As he bears down on goal he he jinks back onto his right, dummies a shot and that takes him around the keeper! He fires past a defender on the line and Nigeria are two-up!
74 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Soooo close to a second for Nigeria. Musa receives the ball on the edge of the box, and cracks one off the bar! Haldorsson is completely fooled by the curl, but it bounces away to safety.
72 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Iheanacho gets a corner right for the first time in the game and Balogun towers above the Iceland defenders to head at goal but he can't quite keep it down. It only just misses the crossbar.
70 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Another sub for Iceland: Sigudarson is on for Bodvarsson.
68 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Gislason controls well in front of the Nigeria defence, and turns towards goal. He cuts onto his right foot and shoots... but it flies over the bar.
That's Iceland's first shot of the second half.
66 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Moses drops his shoulder, jinks down the line and drills a decent effort at goal, but it flies over. The Iceland response has lost momentum... for now.
64 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Ragnar Sigurdsson is not in fact okay after that head knock. Sverrir Ingason replaces him.
Again, concussion problems in football. Sigurdsson comes back onto the pitch with a head injury only to go off later. Fully understand why he wants to carry on, but safety is being put at risk. We have to find a solution.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) June 22, 2018
64 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
It is lofted into the box, but it's far too close to Uzoho, who claims with ease.
63 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
A rash challenge from Ndidi concedes a free-kick in a decent position for Iceland. 30 yards from goal, right of centre. Should be a cross rather than a shot.
60 mins -Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Iceland corner. Sigurdsson jogs over to take it. The big men trot up from the back.
It's a great ball in, and for a split second it looks like it might fall kindly for a blue shirt but Moses manages to hack clear.
58 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
A rocket of a shot from distance from Ndidi takes a nick off the defender and needs Halldorsson to take evasive action and tip over the bar.
56 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
Iceland have already rescued a result after going behind once in this World Cup and they have responded really well here. Gylfi Sigurdsson tries to bundle his way into the box, and calls for a handball when it bounce up at Ebuehi, but the referee waves play on.
53 mins - Nigeria 1 Iceland 0
A problem for Iceland here: Ragnar Sigurdsson was caught by Musa's trailing leg as he dived in to block, and there is blood pouring from the back of his head.
But after a lot of treatment, he gets strapped up and is okay to continue after a change of bloody shirt.
GOOOOOOAAALLLL! Nigeria 1 Iceland 0 (Musa)
The throw in is cleared with a monster header from Omeruo, and in the blink of an eye, Nigeria race up the other end with Moses on the right.
He dinks in to the near post where Musa is there to control with one touch and rifle high into the net to put Nigeria ahead with only their second shot of the game. Unbelievable!
48 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Gislason drops deep to pick up the ball, and he lofts it into the box. Nigeria have a chance to clear but don't take it, and Omeruo can only boot out for a throw in. Gunnarsson lines it up...
46 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Nigeria have their first shot just a few seconds into the second half. Etebo drilling low at goal, but Halldorsson saves pretty easily.
A change for Nigeria: Ebuehi replaces Idowu, who was booked at the end of the first half. No change in system.
Iceland get the half started.
Legends in attendance
Former Arsenal forward Nwankwo Kanu is at the ground today. And that's Iceland's Birkir Kristinsson on the right.
It's goalless at the break but Iceland have had by far the best of that 45 minutes. Nigeria have had more of the ball and have probably been better than they were against Croatia, but they will need to improve massively if they are to win here.
A big second half to come.
45 mins +1 - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Another cross causes problems for Nigeria and the feintest of touches takes it away from Bodvarsson. Ragnar Sigurdsson heads wide from the corner.
45 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Sigurdsson whips the free-kick in from the right, perfectly into the corridor of uncertainty (I love that phrase) . Finnbogason attacks it but almost goes with his hip (yeah, really), and just doesn't get anything like enough on it.
Two minutes added on.
44 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Idowu is the first player in the referee's notebook, after he fouls Saevarsson.
43 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Iheanacho this time overhits a corner. It is easy to blame the fact that he is a centre-forward taking corners - as with Harry Kane at the Euros - but it does seem like someone else should be taking them. He hasn't put a good ball in yet.
41 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Iceland look by a distance the more likely to score. Another long ball causes problems, with Bodvarsson nodding back to Gislason, who rides a challenge and drills low into the box, but it's just behind Finnbogason.
38 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Moses gives chase under a long ball which he knows he is never going to reach. He gets the slightest of nudges from Magnusson and goes down, winning a free-kick in a very good position.
Iheanacho doesn't beat the first man and Iceland clear.
36 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Whipped ball into the Nigeria box from very deep on the right by Saevarsson causes all kinds of concern. Balogun gets the tiniest of glances on it to take it off the forehead of Bodvarsson who is arriving at the back post.
34 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
After a good start this game has quietened down an awful lot. It's very warm in Volgograd and seems like it is having an effect.
Gislason volleys at goal from Bodvarsson's flick. It flies way over the bar.
31 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Nigeria win a free kick on the edge of the centre circle and they decide to send the big men forward for this one. Etebo over-hits it, though, and it sails out for a goal-kick.
30 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Just the two touches in the opposition box for each team so far. Very little threat on either goal.
28 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
John Obi Mikel, so ineffective against Croatia, is playing in the deeper position we in England know him for. Pushing Etobo further forward hasn't really changed things, though. Nigeria are still distinctly lacking creativity.
25 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Iceland do what Nigeria have so far opted against by launching a free kick on halfway into the box. But the Super Eagles stand firm and clear. Again.
22 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
One quick turn from Sigurdsson on the edge of his own box and he turns defence into an Iceland attack. They go down the right and earn another throw-in in an advanced position, which is basically like a corner for them.
The ball is push up but not quite away by Uzoho, and Gislason rockets a volley at goal. Moses blocks but he's in some pain. That's right in the gonads. Ouch.
19 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Moses comes off the flank well to nip in and poke away from left-back Magnusson, and it looks like it might open up, only for Moses's final ball to let him down, wrongfooting Musa, and Iceland clear.
16 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Best moment of the game for Nigeria as Iheanacho does well down the right, cuts back and delivers into the box. Ragnar Sigurdsson and Arnason combine to scramble it clear but Nigeria look buoyed.
14 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
And soon after Gunnarsson is called into action. He launches a monster throw into the box, but again Nigeria deal with it well.
12 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Gunnarsson takes an elbow to the rib in a challenge with Iheanacho and he needs a minute's rest. A slight worry for Iceland that their throw-ins may be hindered, but he's okay to continue.
10 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
At the 10 minute mark, Iceland have had the better of this one.
7 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Iheanacho is on Nigeria corners. Not a bad delivery but Iceland clear.
6 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Another chance for Sigurdsson, as it opens up for him on the edge of the Nigeria box. He curls an effort at goal but it's really, really tame. Easily saved by Uzoho. That's a waste.
5 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Gislason takes on Balogun around the outside on the left wing, and goes down claiming a nudge. The ref isn't interested.
3 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Sigurdsson (of the Gylfi variety), fires at goal. There's not a great deal of pace behind it and Uzoho should catch it, but he decides to parry over the bar.
He does catch the resulting corner well, though.
2 mins - Nigeria 0 Iceland 0
Early throw in for Iceland and Gunnarsson jogs across to launch it into the box. It's cleared, and under a high ball on the edge of the box Arnason claims a push - and almost catches the ball! The ref agrees with him though, and it's an Iceland free kick 30 yards from goal.
Nigeria get us under way. Game on.
A message from the referee
At the toss, it's possible to hear the Kiwi referee instruct both captains:
"Fair play, and watch the holding."
A (very) significant portion of Iceland's 338,000 people are inside the stadium in Volgograd, and they are making a decent din.
If Iceland win, they will be one point away from the second round and Nigeria will be out. Argentina will be very, very close to elimination.
Draw and all three teams mentioned about will remain within one point of each other, with everything to play for in the final game.
If Nigeria win they will jump above Iceland into second place in Group D. All three will still be in with a chance of qualifying for the second round.
The kit we've all been waiting to see
Nigeria will play in this jazzy number tonight, and everyone loves it.
Almost everyone, I should say. Here's Thom Gibbs ranking the World Cup kits. Let's just say he's not a fan.
Arsenal man Alex Iwobi had a quiet game in Nigeria's opener against Croatia and hasn't made the starting lineup today. I'm sure we'll see something of him later, though.
Some pre-match VAR fun
Ch, ch, ch, chaaaanges
Gone from 4-4-1-1 to two up front, with striker Bodvarsson coming in for centre-mid Hallfredsson
Gislason also replaces Burnley's Joey Gudmundsson on the right side of midfield.
Team in full (4-4-2): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, R Sigurdsson, Magnusson; Gislason, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, Bjarnason; Finnbogason, Bodvarsson
Omeruo comes in for Shehu at right-back, Ahmed Musa replaces Alex Iwobi, and Iheanacho in comes in for Ighalo up front.
Team in full (3-5-2): Uzoho; Omeruo, Ekong, Balogun; Moses, Ndidi, Mikel, Etebo, Moses; Musa, Iheanacho
The teams are in
Have a go on our forecaster to see who will come out on top today after you've given extra weight to the factors you consider most important.
I've gone for 1-0 to Iceland in the office World Cup predictions game. It's probably also worth me pointing out that I haven't got a single correct score right so far in the entire competition. So, put all your money on a Nigeria win*.
[*Don't actually do this.]
What an opportunity
Group D was very early on dubbed the 2018 World Cup's 'Group of Death', but who could have predicted it would be Argentina whose hopes would be all-but killed off at this early stage?
A 1-1 draw with Iceland last Saturday was followed by defeat to Croatia last night to leave the group looking mightily open at the halfway stage:
And so, Iceland versus Nigeria now takes on a whole lot more significance than we would have expected. The Scandanvians, so impressive in beating England at Euro 2016 and taking a point off Argentina, can almost subject Lionel Messi and co. to elimination if they win today. Three points against Nigeria would leave them needing only a point against Croatia next week to progress.
And these two teams' performances in their first game give every reason to believe that an Iceland win is the most likely result.
I was really impressed by them against Argentina. Not only their endeavour, work rate, aggression and togetherness, but going forward they showed real quality and composure in the final third.
Nigeria, on the other hand, are just so clearly lacking in creativity that I am struggling to see how they will break Iceland down. Against England in their World Cup warm-up friendly, they looked lost for most of the game, and they never really got going against Croatia, either.
Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi play out wide, but both need a ball-playing midfielder to find them in space for them to work their magic at club level. They simply aren't creative enough on their own. Then there's the fact that John Obi Mikel is still their No 10. Something is not right.