The Super Eagles posted a solid if not spectacular performance to become the first African nation to book a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 victory over the Chipolopolo of Zambia.
Completesportsnigeria.com provides an overview of each player’s performance in the historic match at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa – Did not really see much of the ball but was alert and responded smartly the few times he was called upon to act. He intelligently parried Alex N’gonga’s first-half strike from 30-yards which bobbed dangerously onto the upright for a corner and that was about the most he had to do all day long.
Shehu Abdullahi – Arguably his best performance in a Super Eagles shirt. The Cyprus-based player displayed uncanny intelligence to limit the dangerous Fashion Sakala and was also very adventurous, one of his forays upfront resulted in the exquisite cut-back that assisted the only goal of the game. Booked for a dangerous foul on 63minutes.
Elderson Echiejile – Put in his fair shift on the day before being stretchered off on 80 minutes. The Zambians looked to penetrate from his side of the pitch and he got a torrid time from Augustine Mulenga but discharged himself creditably while on the pitch.
Troost Ekong – Undoubtedly one of his most difficult game for Nigeria as he had to contend with the unrelenting Alex N’gonga all day long. Uncharacteristically generous with the ball, he gave possession away more than was average for his game but, to his credit, was also usually available to provide cover for his golkeeper.
Leon Balogun – A rock in the heart of the defence, Balogun posted another five-star performance as he battled to contain N’gonga and the tireless Edward Mwepu. He towered over the opposition and screened his goalkeeper excellently.
Wilfred Ndidi – Again, the Leicester City star belied his spare frame to post another impressive display for the Eagles, mopping up all the stray balls in front of the back-four while providing cover for captain Mikel Obi to move freely across the pitch. His long throws, now becoming a trademark, also troubled the Zambians a great deal.
Ogenyi Onazi – Was on the pitch for just 30 minutes but, in that half hour, the Super Eagles vice-captain made his presence felt with his tireless running and ability to break-up opposiition play. One of his forays upfuield led to his injury, a suspected hamstring.
John Obi Mikel – Like a true general, Mikel led his troop to the promised land, winning a World Cup ticket for Nigeria while leading from the front. Mikel showed, right from the first day, that he was a capable leader and his influence on and off the ball was such that he was able to dictate the tempo of the game while putting in a hard shift too.
Moses Simon – Full of guile, Simon tormented the Zambian defence while on the pitch and coulod have gotten a goal but chose a spectacular over-head kick when he could have decided on something else. Fatigue set in and he was hauled off in the 66th minute for Alexander Iwobi but he did enough to show he merited his place in the team.
Victor Moses – One of the hardest working players on the pitch, Victor Moses was a thorn in the flesh of the Zambians and created most of the chances from which Nigeria could have easily gotten goals. He bears the brunt of many vicious kicks in the game but a World Cup ticket in the kitty will be enough compensation for the Chelsea man. Still one of Nigeria’s best players.
Odion Ighalo – Spurned two glorious chances to put Nigeria ahead, one in each half, but that does not take away his contribution to the team’s victory. Most times he cuts a lonely figure upfront without anybody to assist but his hold-up play and footwork is still one of the best in the business. Unlucky not to have scored one or two either.
Mikel Agu – Came on for the inuured )Onazi but it took him time to get into the game. He was booked for dangerous play but the moment he got into his strides, he settled down and combined well with Ndidi to provide cover for the back-four. Also cut off the attacking threat of Zambia on more than a few occasions.
Alex Iwobi – The inspired substitution that turned the game on it’s head. He came on in the 66th minute for Simon and eight mniutes later he scored the goal that will take Nigeria to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, same way he scored Nigeria’s first goal in Ndola against Zambia on Matchday One of the qualifying series. Apart from the goal, Iwobi also caused a lot of anxious moments with his uick-thinking and tireless running. A MotM performance packed in that 24minutes showing.
Ola Aina – Not the debut he envisaged but Ola Aina got thrown into the deep end for his first international with Nigeria having to defend a one-goal lead against the relentless Zambian who kept knocking and asking questions. Aina did well in the 10-minutes he was on the pitch and could have easily gotten an assist in the last minute for his effort to Victor Moses which nearly resulted in a second goal.