S2 SCORE with theSun JUNE 23, 2018
7.30pm Daily 14 June - 15 July 2018 . i e - 15 July 2018
Nigeria’s forward double downs Iceland as Super Eagles come alive A HMED MUSA (right pix) kept Nigeria’sWorldCupcampaignalive with two fine second-half goals to give theSuperEagles a 2-0winover Iceland inVolgograd thismorning. Musabroke thedeadlock inbrilliant fashion in the 49thminute, stretching his leg to control a Victor Moses cross from the right before hitting the ball on the half volley past Hannes Halldorsen in goal. His second score came in the 75th when he bustledpastKariArnason,roundedHalldorsson andplanted a right-foot shot into the net. Icelandhad theopportunity tobounceback, withapenaltyawardedfollowingvideoreview, butGylfi Sigurdssonballoonedhis83rd-minute spot kick over the bar. The Group D result means Nigeria, ArgentinaandIcelandcanall still progresswith Croatia, who are assured of a last-16 place. Argentinawill nowneed to beat Nigeria on Tuesdayandhope Icelanddon’t defeatCroatia if theywant to stay at the tournament. Nigeria knowawinwill put themin the last 16 and a drawmight be enough depending on the outcome of Iceland’s game with Croatia. Musa, on loan from Leicester City to CSKA Moscow, had come into the team up front followingNigeria’s languiddisplay in losing2-0 toCroatia. His match-winning brace means he has scoredNigeria’s last fourWorldCupgoals, and is now highest goalscorer at World Cup
tournaments for the Super Eagles. GermancoachGernotRohr turned toMusa and Kelechi Iheanacho up front for Odion Ighalo andAlex Iwobi, whileKenneth OmeruoreplacedAbdullahiShehuon the right of a three-mandefence.
changedtoa4-4-2,fromthe4-5-1heusedagainst Argentina, bringing in JonBodvarssonup front to partner Finnbogason. Midfielder Emil Hallfredsson made way, while injured midfielder Johann Gudmundsson was replaced by Rurik Gislason. Nigeria, whohadwon just one of their last 13matches at theWorldCup, showed far more attacking intent after the break, and Musa’s opener was the start of the Super Eagles’ best spell.
The match kicked off in temperatures above 30°C but the Volgograd Arena pitch lay in shade to offer some respite from the fierce heat. It was, however, a cagey first half from both teams.
Halldorsson had to tip a deflectedWilfredNdidi shot overthebar,LeonBalogun header narrowly over andMusa struck thebar shortly before he finished in style for his and and his team’s second goal. Iceland were given a lifeline w h e n Finnbogasonwas fouled inside the box by Tyronne Ebuehi, with the penalty awarded after video review. But Sigurdsson could not hit the target, and now Iceland know they will need to beat Croatia but progress is out of their hands. – dpa
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Nigeria, needingapoint to keep their hopes alive of reaching the last 16, seemed content to play the ball aroundpatiently inmidfield andwere rarely a threat. Iceland’s best weapons were set play. Sigurdsson had an early freekick parried away by 19- year-old keeper Francis Uzoho and just before theendof the half Alfred F i n n b o g a s o n d e f l e c t e d a Sigurdsson freekick wide. Iceland coach H e i m i r H a l l g r i m s s o n
‘ARGENTINA LOOK LOST’ ATLETICOMADRID coach Diego Simeone said Argentina look lost and have no leader- ship after the 3-0 loss to Croatia which left them on the verge of a disastrous early exit from theWorld Cup, in an audio message leaked to Spanish and Argentine radio stations. “What’s happening to the team right now is what has happened to Argentina in these last four disgraceful years: anarchy, no leadership from the players, coaches or directors. The team is lost,” former Argentina international Simeone can be heard saying. “Right now in the dressing room they are coming to blows. Someone needs to stand up and fight.” Simeone also appeared to call into question the true quality of Argentina’s usual talisman Lionel Messi, who has had a minimal impact at tournament in Russia andmissed a penalty against Iceland in the Group D opener, while his rival Cristiano Ronaldo has scored four times for Portugal. ... AS FANS WEEP THE party at the Buenos Aires fanzone fell flat as a crowd expecting a Messi-inspired ArgentinaWorld Cup revival could only watch in horror at as the nadir of Nizhny Novgorod unfolded. “We lost very badly, they really humiliated us this time,” said 22-year-old Joaquin. “And now, on top of that, we’re depending on Nigeria!” After the abject 3-0 loss to Croatia, the teamwill have to beat Nigeria in their final game and hope other results go their way to advance. For even the most passionate fans here, that seems a tall order now. Lionel Messi came in for particular criticism after an under-par performance. “Messi, who keeps winning for Barcelona, who continues to deliver triumph after triumph for Barcelona, has given us nothing but defeats and sadness,” said an angry Miguel Angel Gutierrez. CROATIA IN EUPHORIA THOUSANDS of Croatians yesterday celebrated with euphoria in the country’s streets and squares after their team’s 3-0 victory over Argentina powered them into the World Cup last 16. “Croatia is in a trance!” commented the influential Jutarnji List daily paper in its online edition, showing photos of delighted fans celebrating throughout the country. Many of themwere dressed in Croatia’s red and white shirts and waving the nation’s flag. “Euphoria will certainly last until the early morning hours,” the paper added. “The magnificent victory of the ‘Fiery Ones’ is celebrated in the whole of Croatia.” On a warm summer night, several thousand people watched the match on a giant screen above an improvised stage in the Zagrebmain square, singing patriotic songs and lighting flares.
Nigeria’s AhmedMusa (right) scores their second goal against Iceland during their Russia 2018World CupGroupD match at VolgogradArena yesterday. – REUTERSPIX
Sampaoli asks for ‘forgiveness’
JORGE SAMPAOLI begged for forgiveness from Argentina’s fans yesterday after a 3-0 drubbing by Croatia left Lionel Messi’s World Cup dreams hanging by a thread. “First and foremost, I would beg for their forgiveness, especially those whocamegreat distances to seeArgentina,” said the softly spoken Sampaoli. “I am responsible for this result but I was as dreamy-eyed as the fans.” The Group D defeat means Argentina, one of the pre- tournament favourites and defeated finalists in 2014, are on the brink of a humiliating first- round exit. Theyhavejustonepointfrom two games and will certainly
have tobeat Nigeria in their final outing to have any chance of avoiding elimination. But forArgentina–andMessi – the recriminations over such a poor performance beganwithin seconds of the final whistle. “I had todevise a plan for this match,”saidSampaoli.IfIhadset things up differently, things might have turned out much better. “I don’t think it’s realistic to put the burden onCaballero.” He added that his under- pressure team, knowing they neededapositive result fromthe game, crumbled after conceding the first goal. “After they scored we were emotionally broken and we didn’t have any footballing
arguments to change the course of events.” Asked why he made three changes tohis teamandplayeda 3-4-3 system, Sampaoli said he thought this was the best way to put pressure on Croatia. But admittedhe had got itwrong. The defeat leaves Argentina facing a repeat of their ignominious 2002 campaign, when they also went out at the group stage after being tipped as possibleWorldCupwinners. The South Americans were curiously lifeless anduninspired throughout, capped by an anonymous display byMessi. He remainedaperipheral and largely ponderous figure, briefly flashing to life and the 30-year- old’sdreamofwinningtheWorld
Cupnow look remote.
All the attention after the humbling defeat will focus on Argentina and Messi but it was also the result of a fine performance byCroatia. Coach Zlatko Dalic admitted he was surprised to be through after just two games butwarned Croatian fans not to get carried away, despite arguably the performance of the tournament. “Wehave tomake surewedo not go over the top. We have to be calmand humble, all of us.” But in another piece of bad news for Argentina he said he would definitely rest players in the last game against Iceland, which the South Americans will likely need Croatia to win. – AFP
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