The 2018 World Cup has spoiled us with great goals. Nacho’s volley. Ronaldo’s free kick. Modrić’s curler. Add to that list Ahmed Musa’s first goal against Iceland from Nigeria’s 2-0 win on Friday.
The 25-year-old striker’s vicious finish capped off a smooth counter-attack, but was it the best goal in Russia so far? Let’s investigate.
The stakes: After losing its first match, against Croatia, Nigeria desperately needed a result against a determined Iceland squad fresh off a surprising draw with Argentina.
The Super Eagles didn’t appear to be in any rush, however, and they plodded through one of the most futile first halves you will ever see.
0 – Nigeria are the first team to not have a single shot in the first half of a World Cup game since South Korea vs Algeria in 2014. Ineffective. #NGA #ISL #NGAISL pic.twitter.com/De50ApaIBq
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 22, 2018
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThings went much better for Nigeria after halftime. Musa’s 49th minute goal lifted a weight off the squad’s collective shoulders, and second-half Nigeria looked nothing like the overly cautious squad that didn’t light up the scoreboard in the first half.
Just look at Musa’s second goal (which was pretty darn good in its own right). A nervous player doesn’t do this.
The counter-attack: Two headers. One pass. A cross. That’s all it took for Nigeria to get the ball out of its own box and into the back of the net. That it did this against Iceland, the quintessential counter-attacking team of the tournament, adds a sprinkle of schadenfreude.
Thats the way a counter attack is supposed to work. @NGSuperEagles work it to perfection and score a great goal. What a touch inside the box before the finish. @Nigeria take 1-0 lead in a very tight game.
— Tommy Smyth (@TommySmythESPN) June 22, 2018
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThose who’ve grown tired of hearing about Iceland’s small population, gritty players, and part-time-dentist coach surely enjoyed watching Nigeria give them a taste of their own medicine—or novocaine, in Coach Hallgrímsson’s case.
The finish: Wrangling a chest-high cross with the outside of your boot and then smacking a half-volley with the next touch is Cirque du Soleil–type stuff. Feel free to try it at home, but don’t blame me if you shred your groin like a Michael Cohen memo. Blame Ahmed Musa.
But was it the best goal of the World Cup? My head says no, but my child-like susceptibility to recency bias says of course it was the best goal, stupid.
I wish I have the skill and confidence of Ahmed Musa in my field of work
Bravo Nigeria! Am so getting your #WorldCup jersey pic.twitter.com/AJupPNyi6g
— Azalea Phinata (@azphinata) June 22, 2018