The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Tuesday night produced a stunning comeback to defeat Argentina by four goals to two in an International Friendly in Krasnodar, Russia as both teams prepare for the World Cup next year.
La Albiceleste which was without captain Lionel Messi but still had enough fire power took the lead 27 minutes into the game after Ever Banega curled in a free-kick into the bottom-right corner after a costly error from Daniel Akpeyi as he misjudged the positioning of both Argentine striker, Sergio Aguero and the ball. The ball was laid at Akpeyi’s feet and he had to stretch outside his box to pick the ball as the Argentine forward was advancing.
The Manchester City’s highest goal scorer nine minutes later made it 2-0 in favor of the South Americans after he finished easily in front of the goal with an assist from Cristian Pavon.
Kelechi Iheanacho reduced the score line to a one goal cushion before the break after the Under 17 World Cup winner delivered a beautiful free-kick over the wall of the opponents leaving goal keeper Agustin Marchesin to do nothing but help the ball into the top corner, which was after Alex Iwobi was fouled by Javier Mascherano.
Iheanacho then turned the provider for the leveler in the 52nd minute as he fed Iwobi who converted a beautifully placed effort into the bottom-left corner which left the goalkeeper with no chance to deny the Arsenal forward. Once again the Leicester City player was the brainchild for Nigeria’s third goal of the night as his lay-off pass found debutant Brian Idowu who calmly curled the ball into the corner of the post two minutes later.
The Super Eagles struck one more time 17 minutes to full time when substitute Ahmed Musa laid a pass to Iwobi who took Mascherano to school with a nutmeg to finish into the corner to grab his brace.
Growing up, one of my favorite animated series which will forever be in my heart was Terrahawks, and one of the episode titles that made me get used to this statement was ‘’Expect the Unexpected’’.
Gernot Rohr’s men have been placed in Pot four for the Russia 2018 World Cup draws coming up on the first of December later this year and there is a very high possibility we could be grouped with countries like Germany, Portugal, Spain, Colombia, Sweden, Iceland or even square off against Argentina once again when the tournament kicks off next year June.
Nigeria has never progressed to the quarter-final stage of the World Cup in its five- time appearance dating back to 1994 in the United States of America and failed to progress from the group stage in 2002 and 2010. Nigeria did not qualify for the tournament in 2006.
Tuesday’s victory against Argentina casts a ray of hope and if the team is equipped with the right balance of players; especially in the goalkeeping area which has been a major area of concern since Carl Ikeme was diagnosed with leukemia earlier in the year, the nation’s anthem can be played more than four times when the football hostilities begin in Russia.
It may be sound funny to say that the team may go all the way to the semi-finals and who knows even the finals just because they dispatched Argentina in a friendly game but history surely repeats itself and it can do so in strange ways.
Greece went on to win the European Championship in 2004 when no one expected them to progress from their group. Portugal was the 2016 champion after qualifying for the championship in France via play-offs and progressing from their group as the best losers.
And then there’s Brazil, which went on to win the 2002 World Cup after struggling to qualify for the competition with five; yes, five different coaches.
You might say it is Brazil. Yes, but what if they hadn’t qualified, won’t people have said mighty Brazil could not make it to the World Cup? Football as exciting as it is a sport can also be very unpredictable. Nigeria can dare to dream after last night’s victory and if they play their cards right, assemble the perfect squad and get the job done against teams they come up against in Russia, who says the world won’t actually expect the unexpected?
Photos By AFP Photo