At the end of the mind games between Mr. Wedson Nyirenda, the head coachof Zambian national team, the Chipolopolo and Gernot Rohr, the coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria over who picks the group B ticket for the 2018 World Cup in Russia next year, it was Rohr that came out on top – thanks to Arsenal FC of England forward, Alex Iwobi who came off the bench to shoot Nigeria straight to Russia. The Super Eagles beat Zambi again 1-0 in Uyoon Saturday September 7, 2017 to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
With the three points in the bag, Nigeria sits on top of Group B with 13 points. The closest to them is the Chipilopolo who are on 7 points and with every team having one game in remaining, Nigeria, who is yet to lose any game in the entire qualifying series remains undisputed. It was also the first time in recent times that Nigeria would do a clean job without giving Nigerians heartburn.
The Super Eagles became the first African team to advance to Russia after taking an unassailable lead atop Group B. It will be their sixth World Cup finals appearance. Iwobi who came from the bench blasted home from a pullback by Shehu Abdullahi 17 minutes from time to secure qualification. When the goal came, Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora went into frenzy.
But in a high tempo first half, Zambia thought they had taken the lead when Augustin Mulenga bundled home but his 23rd minute effort was disallowed for offside. In the 36th minute, Zambia striker Alex Ngonga, whose pace troubled the Nigeria defence throughout, forced goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa to parry the ball behind for a corner. The Chipolopolo dictated the game in the first half and even had superior ball possession at the end of the half.
The Super Eagles peppered the Zambian goal with shots in the closing minutes of the first half, but skipper Mikel Obi, Odion Ighalo and Moses Simon all failed to trouble Zambian experienced goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. Nigeria were the brighter of the two teams after the break as Wilfred Ndidi saw his looping header pushed away by Mweene. But with the introduction of Arsenal’s Iwobi, the Super Eagles carved out the better chances, although Zambia looked dangerous on the counter attack until Iwobi settled the affair and sent Nigeria to the World Cup finals with a superb finish.