For the first time since the World Cup qualification started, the Super Eagles of Nigeria yesterday finally lost a game. They were unbeaten all through the qualification series, which saw Nigeria qualify ahead of the pack in their group. Two other friendlies they played against Argentina and Poland, the Super Eagles also defeated both teams.
However, it was not to be yesterday as Serbia striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a second-half double to earn a 2-0 World Cup warm-up win over Nigeria in a lively encounter at League Two side Barnet’s Hive Stadium on Tuesday. It was a much improved performance by the Serbians after Friday’s 2-1 defeat by Morocco, while Nigeria put in a turgid display following a 1-0 win over Poland as the teams continue their preparations for this year’s finals in Russia.
Newcastle United’s Mitrovic, on loan at promotion-chasing English Championship side Fulham, was unlucky in the early stages after television replays suggested his header which squeezed under keeper Francis Uzoho had crossed the line. Uzoho was much busier than his Serbia counterpart Vladimir Stojkovic, having parried stinging shots by Mitrovic and Branislav Ivanovic while he also stopped winger Dusan Tadic scoring with an easy chance.
Mitrovic missed another opportunity shortly after the interval before he finally broke the deadlock, superbly turning in a Filip Kostic cross from the left in the 68th minute. The two combined again 13 minutes later as Tadic released Kostic on the left with neat footwork and the forward squared the ball back for Mitrovic to sidefoot home from 10 metres. Halftime substitute Odion Ighalo missed Nigeria’s solitary chance in the second half when Stojkovic pushed his close-range shot over the bar at Barnet’s stadium. Serbia will face Costa Rica, Switzerland and Brazil in Group E when the World Cup gets underway in June, while Nigeria have been drawn with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina in Group D.