By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith
Group D: kickoff June 22nd
Nigeria is back! With a strong build-up of a quick aggressive offense, the Super Eagles stomped all over the World Cup dreams of beloved underdog Iceland.
— AhmedMusa718 (@Ahmedmusa718) June 22, 2018
Minutes before kickoff, I ran into a young Nigerian-American family friend who would be nervously watching the game on his phone. We parted ways, crossing hopeful fingers that the young team would get their act together.
After a first half lacking solid goal-scoring chances, the Super Eagles came out in force in the second. When Ahmed Musa, familiar to local Russian fans for his time as a striker for CSKA Moscow, scored in the 49th minute, I was out of my seat jumping up and down. (No offense, Iceland). And then Musa did it again in the 75th, his brace pushing the lead to 2-0. They were doing it. Nigeria was keeping its hopes alive and I was riding that high from New York.
Man of the moment @Ahmedmusa718 first Nigerian to score at multiple world cups. Brilliant from him. In the tunnel after he won his man of the match trophy @kwesesports #kwesefifa #nigeria pic.twitter.com/KiBACfI8cu
— Mimi Fawaz (@MimosaFawaz) June 22, 2018
My 12-year-old son was having none of it. An ardent Cristiano Ronaldo fan, he can’t stand Lionel Messi and was relishing the downward spiral of his soccer icon nemesis (or “neMessis”?) and in turn, Argentina’s seemingly negative prognosis in this World Cup.
(Aside #1- I don’t condone the Messi hate but it started when he was quite young and there were some jerky Messi-obsessed classmates so I understand.) (Aside #2- He’s a Man City fan who likes Aguero so some of this passionate dissent makes no sense.) Now he loudly wailed “Argentina is still in thanks to Nigeria! Why couldn’t they just tie Iceland?”
When the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup, I embraced the chance to watch each game for the beauty of it versus worrying and strategizing about who the US should/would/could play next. When you don’t have a team that you die-hard root for, it can be liberating once you get past the disappointment.
Clearly, many fans including my son have alternative strategies for watching the games depending on their connection to a team or country or passionate disdain for another. For now, nothing is settled in Group D.
We will have more clarity one way or another on Tuesday, June 26th when Iceland faces Croatia and Nigeria faces Argentina at 2 pm EST. Matches play simultaneously, which stinks for fans who want to watch both games. I’ll be watching the rematch of the 1994 World Cup duel between Argentina and Nigeria that hooked me into the Super Eagles’ football style. It’ll be a real feat if Nigeria can put a nail in Argentina’s 2018 coffin.
Featured image: mlsfemale
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