Musa eyes encore against Messi

Ahmed Musa scoring his second goal in Nigeria's 2-0 win over Iceland on Friday, which reignited Argentina's chances of qualifying for the next round. Fans of Lionel Messi's team have even dubbed him "Lionel Musa" for keeping their team's hopes alive.
Ahmed Musa scoring his second goal in Nigeria's 2-0 win over Iceland on Friday, which reignited Argentina's chances of qualifying for the next round. Fans of Lionel Messi's team have even dubbed him "Lionel Musa" for keeping their team's hopes alive.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beating Argentina to move into knockout phase not beyond reach, says Nigerian striker

VOLGOGRAD • Ahmed Musa struck a brace to sink Iceland 2-0 on Friday and promised to do the same to Lionel Messi's Argentina in Tuesday's Group D showdown.

The Leicester striker, on loan at CSKA Moscow, became the first Nigerian to score at two World Cups as the Super Eagles secured a crucial win over Iceland, who missed a VAR-awarded penalty in the 83rd minute.

He scored both goals in Nigeria's group stage 3-2 defeat by Argentina in Brazil four years ago and is relishing the chance to do it again. But this time he hopes it will knock out the South Americans.

"I think scoring against Argentina isn't that difficult for me," he smiled after his Man-of-the-Match performance in Volgograd.

"We know the importance of the game. It's do or die."

The African side will secure a spot in the knockout stage alongside Croatia if they beat Argentina. A draw would eliminate the Argentinians but would leave Nigeria's fate resting on the outcome of Iceland's game against Croatia, which kicks off at the same time.

Musa also scored twice for Leicester in a 4-2 pre-season friendly defeat by Messi-inspired Barcelona two years ago and said he always scores when up against the Argentinian superstar.

MUSA'S TWO-GOAL STREAK

I can remember four years ago when Messi played in Brazil I scored two goals. And when I transferred to Leicester I played against Barcelona and he's on the pitch and I scored another two goals. So I think next game anything can happen - possibly, I'm going to score another two goals.

AHMED MUSA , Nigeria's striker on his record of scoring a brace whenever Lionel Messi is in the opposing team.

"I can remember four years ago, when Messi played in Brazil, I scored two goals," he recalled.

"And when I transferred to Leicester, I played against Barcelona and he's on the pitch, and I scored another two goals.

"So I think next game anything can happen - possibly, I'm going to score another two goals."

For now, Argentina fans are loving the 25-year-old, even dubbing him "Lionel Musa" for keeping their team's hopes alive.

Had Iceland won, Jorge Sampaoli's team would have been virtually eliminated with a game to spare. Instead, a win over Nigeria would take them into the last 16 should Iceland fail to beat Croatia. If Iceland win, goal difference will decide which team progresses.

Musa came into the starting line-up in place of Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi as part of coach Gernot Rohr's tactical shake-up.

Skipper John Obi Mikel was used as an attacking midfielder throughout Nigeria's qualifying campaign but a lacklustre showing in the defeat by Croatia last Saturday meant he was asked to drop into a more defensive role against Iceland.

Victor Moses, usually allowed to roam up front for Nigeria, was utilised as right wing-back against Iceland and set up the opener.

"We changed our strategy and organisation, playing 3-5-2 with Victor Moses playing in the place where he plays at Chelsea and the captain came back to the position that he plays in China (with Tianjin Teda) and used to play at Chelsea before," Rohr told reporters. "It gave us more space and the speed proved decisive for us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 24, 2018, with the headline 'Musa eyes encore against Messi'. Print Edition | Subscribe