Nigeria vs Iceland: A former Director-General of the defunct National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye, has attributed the 2-0 victory Nigeria recorded against Iceland to players’ determination and effective tactical calls by the team’s coach.
Elegbeleye made this known in Abuja on Friday shortly after the second round Group D match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the much-hyped Iceland national team.
Two well-taken second-half goals in the Nigeria vs Iceland game by Ahmed Musa at the 49th and 75th minutes capped a positive outing by the Nigerian side at the Volgograd Arena in Russia to stay in contention for a place at the knock-out stage.
Elegbeleye, a member of the 2011 Ministerial Committee on Reform of Football Administration in Nigeria, believed that the Eagles understood what was at stake.
“We were expecting a victory. If we didn’t win that will have been a very bad result for us. A loss will have meant we were out but now we are hopeful of advancing.
“We are going to beat them because the boys appear to be ready to win matches, unlike our performance in the first match against Croatia,” the former House of Representatives member said.
Coach Gernot Rohr, criticised for his starting line-up and position play in the match against Croatia, made some selection and positional changes to the team against Iceland.
Forwards Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho started in attack, while Kenneth Omeruo was brought in to form a central defensive trio along with Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong.
Also, captain Mikel Obi was given a deeper role and both Victor Moses and Bryan Idowu operated as wing-backs.
Elegbeleye said those changes and the determination of the players to deliver, clearly made the difference for Nigeria.
“The determination to win in Nigeria vs Iceland game made the difference today. The boys knew the effect of failure at this level. The introduction of new players into the starting 11 also worked.
“Pairing Musa and Iheanacho was more productive than playing Odion Ighalo as a lone striker. Musa was hungry and had the predatory instinct.
“Ebuehi was also a good option because he offered more, offensively. The coach also made some tactical switches on the pitch.
“Mikel Obi played deeper and Etebo played further forward.
“Using those players in their rightful positions and tweaking the starting 11 added to the success. Don’t forget that Kenneth Omeruo also proved himself,” he stated.
The final round of matches in Group D would be played on Tuesday, June 26, with Nigeria taking on perennial foes Argentina while Iceland will slog it out with group leaders Croatia.
Elegbeleye however expressed optimism that Nigeria would put up a similar display against Argentina to book a place in the round of 16.
“I am certain our match against Argentina will go the exactly like the one against Iceland. We have to win against Argentina and we will win.
“Failure will mean an opportunity for either Iceland or Argentina to progress and we will not allow that to happen. I can assure you that Nigeria will defeat Argentina.
“Yes, they have individual talents but they are not playing as a team at the moment,” the former member, Ethics and Fair Play Committee of the Nigeria Football Association concluded. (NAN)