Nigeria’s Super Eagles began their road to Qatar 2022 World Cup with a comfortable 2-0 win over Liberia in the Qualification series on Saturday evening.
The perfect start was recorded at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, as Kelechi Iheanacho’s brace sealed the points on a sodden pitch after torrential rainfall. It was a dominant performance all through and Gernot Rohr would be pleased with proceedings in a must-win game.
Iheanacho put in a man-of-the-match display in front of a percentage of Lagos fans as they seized supremacy of Group C after Cape Verde drew 1-1 at the Central African Republic. The Leicester City man will be unavailable for Tuesday’s game due to Cape Verde being in the UK’s Covid-19 red list, but he will look back on a perfect evening when he set his nation up and running.
Lining up in his preferred support-striker role behind Victor Osimhen in a 4-2-3-1 system, Iheanacho reveled in the attacking freedom as he roamed the park for space. He has impressively settled in this role for club and country and that continuity bodes well for the attacker.
He was at his clinical best in front of the partisan crowd. Given the soaked playing surface, his unorthodox style made the difference.
The first goal owed much to his trademark intelligence as he found space following a corner-kick routine to drive a low shot into Ashley Williams’ near post.
Iheanacho looked dangerous and kept popping up in spaces, and once again showed his predatory instincts with the game-clincher. He brought down Alex Iwobi’s flick-on from a throw-in and turned expertly to finish past a bewildered keeper with his right foot on the stroke of half-time.
For Iwobi, the two assists mean he has now registered three goals and two assists in his last five competitive internationals. He is maturing and duly stepping up in the green jersey.
Pertinently, the Everton midfielder enjoys tactical flexibility that allows him and Iheanacho to interchange positions and roam in search of spaces to hurt the opposition. That attacking chemistry will also please Osimhen who had an uncharacteristically quiet day in front of goal.
Nigeria’s young and talented attacking aces are beginning to develop as expected having each stepped up for the team in recent times, and the form of the other strikers will further comfort Rohr who is now in search of the player who could grasp the last spot in the attacking quartet.
The Cameroon 2022 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in January, and with a perfect start secured in 2022 World Cup qualifying, much is looking up for the Super Eagles’ frontline.
Iheanacho’s goal-poaching ability, Iwobi’s creativity, and Osimhen’s infectious thirst for goals are wonderful tools to have in the arsenal which opponents would now be very wary of.
The Leicester man had never scored two goals in one game for Nigeria previously, but having hit new heights in 2021, he is finally fulfilling his immense potential and brimming with confidence knowing exactly how to steal the show for club and country.
Long may it continue.