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Musa is Nigeria’s best hope for goals against Iceland

first_imgFour years ago, Ahmed Musa scored two spectacular goals as Nigeria came within a Marcos Rojo header of tying Argentina and finishing as group winners at the World Cup in Brazil.Instead, the defender scored from a corner kick, and the Super Eagles lost 3-2. They advanced in second place, having beaten Bosnia in the second game of the group, but had to contend with France in the Last 16 and lost 2-0.The CSKA Moscow forward was unplayable against Messi and co., and could well have had a hat trick. But between then and very recently, a combination of circumstances saw the forward lose his place at both club and international level.He was named Super Eagles captain after Vincent Enyeama’s premature retirement in late 2015, and looked for all the world like he was about to become a growing force within the national team.Instead, personal issues left him unsettled, and he proceeded to hand the armband to John Mikel Obi. Things went from bad to worse when he changed clubs, moving from CSKA to Leicester City.Unable to find playing time, Musa plummeted down the Foxes’ pecking order to the point where he could not even get a game with the reserves. Naturally, he also lost his place on the national team. Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr favoured Moses Simon and Alex Iwobi ahead of the long-serving forward.But a winter loan move back to CSKA was marked by an immediate upturn in fortunes, with six goals in 10 appearances, and he finds himself in the international frame again.It was not just about the move, however, but also how the 25-year-old was deployed. While considered a winger in Nigeria, his inability to cross — not one of his strongest assets — has been held against him for years.But that is not Musa’s strength. His biggest assets are his speed and finishing. Those are the qualities which propelled him to the Nigerian league golden boot. They are also the assets which have helped him bag those goals at CSKA, and not by crossing a football.He has excelled in Moscow by being stationed as a central striker. Rohr tested him there in the friendly against Serbia recently, and even though he lacked supply, his running in behind the backs caused all manner of trouble for the defence.After their Russia 2018 opening loss to Croatia, the Super Eagles desperately need a win to keep their World Cup dreams alive. A win on Friday against Iceland is critical to those aspirations.To do so, Rohr will need to make some tweaks in both tactics and personnel. A switch to three at the back would be a good start, but to break down the sturdy Iceland defence, Nigeria will need both craft and speed.Odion Ighalo has strength and a bit of craft. Kelechi Iheanacho has guile, and Ahmed Musa has guile, speed and finishing. If Rohr decides to go 3-5-2 against Iceland, then one of Ighalo or Iheanacho will be the starting centre forward.Musa would be the perfect foil, whose speed on the break will keep the Icelanders honest when they think about counter attacking. His ability to finish calmly should also come in useful if the Super Eagles create enough chances to place the forwards in a goalscoring position. He is also one of only four players in the squad who have actual previous World Cup experience. He has form, ability, and big game experience. Starting Musa would not be a gamble for Rohr. It would be the best football decision to take.last_img


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