Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football match between Nigeria and Zambia in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, on October 7, 2017. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Again, Iwobi Is Zambia’s Nemesis
Victory Over Zambia ‘Very Sweet’ – Buhari
Nigeria, yesterday, became the first African nation to book a place in next year’s FIFA World Cup, after beating boastful Chipolopolo of Zambia 1-0 at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The former African champions have only missed one tournament, that is Germany 2006, since their debut in 1994.
Again, Alex Iwobi was the nemesis of the South African nation, when he came in as substitute for Moses Simon, and scored the vital goal in the 73rd, as Nigeria joins Russia, Brazil, Spain, England and other qualifiers for the Mundial scheduled for Russia, next year.
The Arsenal forward was also the one that opened scoring for the Eagles in Ndola, in the opening CAF Group B World Cup qualifier against the Zambians team, before Kelechi Iheanacho, sealed it with another goal to make it 2-1.
Group B, where the Eaglesfeatured, was seen bymany as the toughest group of the continent’s five qualifying tables. But the team remained dominant, and unbeaten throughout the campaign. It only dropped points thanks to a Cameroonian penalty on the road in Yaounde, after a 4-0 drubbing, a few days earlier, of the reigning African champions.
In the qualifying rounds, the youthful side saw the likes of Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon, score crucial goals.
Eagles had begun the match on a good note when a shot by captain Mikel Obi went wide. The Zambians then fought back and had two quick corner kicks in the third and fourth minute of the encounter to announce their mission.
In an encounter, where Eagles assistant captain, Ogenyi Onazi, sustained an injury towards the latter part of the first half, the Zambians proved to the home side that they were not in the country for a stroll in the park.
Sadly, all attempts they made to get a goal and extend the emergence of a world cup-bound team from the group failed to materialise.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in his congratulatory message to the team, described the hard-earned victory as “very sweet, soothing and a 57th Independence Anniversary gift to the nation.”
He applauded the nation’s senior men’s football team for the feat of making Nigeria the first African country to qualify for Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament, with a match left to play.
The president promised that the Federal Government will continue to support the team within available resources so that the nation will maximise the unifying potentials of sports in general and football in particular.
He enjoined the entire team and Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) officials to remain steadfast and focused when they begin preparations for the global football fiesta in order to make Nigeria proud.
He also appreciated the government of Akwa Ibom State for the invaluable support it has been rendering to the football team, describing it as worthy of emulation.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, in his message said the Eagles have demonstrate the undying spirit of oneness and unity by bonding together to decimate their opponents and clinch the first ticket to the World Cup from their group.
While commending the team, Umahi also congratulated Nigerians for making it once again to the Mundial, adding that with the victory and qualification of Nigeria to the competition, there is an encouraging light in Nigerian sports.
He called for more dedication on the side of the players and entire technical crew.