Nigeria, captain by the one and only Mikel John Obi, have become the first African nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after a closely fought 1-0 win over Zambia on Saturday in Uyo. Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi scored the lone goal of the game with just about 20 minutes left, barely five minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Alex Iwobi has just scored this goal for Nigeria to put them 1-0 up - A win sends them to the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/5iYTtqN8eb— Arsenal News (@ArsenalFC_fl) October 7, 2017
Strong play from Victor Moses to get the secondary assist on that goal, working the ball through for Abdullahi Shehu, who plays his football in Cyprus, to pick out Iwobi at the top of the box. Nigeria weren’t always that fluid throughout the match, but the win is all that matters and this win was sweeter than most.
And it was extra-extra sweet for young Ola Aina, who got to make his debut for the Super Eagles one day before turning 21, after declaring his allegiance for his country of heritage after representing England in youth internationals. The Chelsea wing-back, currently on loan at Hull City, played the final ten minutes.
Here’s a great little interview he did with “Vlogger Superstar” Oyemykke.
Meanwhile, over in Europe, on a pitch far worse than anything seen in the Nigeria game, Belgium were looking to finish their qualification campaign strong against Bosnia in Sarajevo. Belgium have already qualified but seedings for the World Cup groups depend on how well they finish, so they had plenty to play for and Roberto Martinez’s very attacking team selection underlined that notion as well.
The Chelsea trio of Courtois, Hazard (captain), and Batshuayi all started in the damp conditions and the sloppy non-league pitch. Martinez’s 3-4-3 featured Yannick Carrasco as the left wing-back and Kevin De Bruyne as one of the central midfielders, so it was perhaps none too surprising that Belgium ended up conceding three goals on the day. Fellaini having to depart with a knee injury didn’t help either — surprisingly he was the only victim of the pitch and the kicks of Kolasinac & Besic & Co.
Down 2-1 at the half after conceding twice through incredibly sloppy defending — How sloppy? Begović got an assist, that’s how sloppy. — Belgium proved irrepressible with three second half goals, De Bruyne, Carrasco, and Hazard all making their mark, or at least as much as the pitch allowed for anything fancy. Batshuayi, as he tends to do, got his goal as well, showing good awareness in the box to tap in the equalizer for the visitors. It was his first competitive start for his country, though he had time for a quick acknowledgement for his former teammate Asmir Begović, who was in goal for the home side and made several excellent saves.
The full highlights have plenty of action to appreciate and shake your head at, too:
In late action, N’Golo Kanté got the start for France. They are currently leading 1-0 over Bulgaria. And then Kanté got hurt. And suddenly we weren’t feeling so good.