By Chinyere Ogbonna: Substitute, Alex Iwobi has earned Nigeria a ticket to the 2018 World Cup holding in Russia. Also, Iwobi who scored at the 74th minute into the match came in for Moses Simon and scored in the first leg in Ndola.
Nigeria started the stronger of the two teams and should have opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Moses Simon played a fine low cross from the right flank, but striker Odion Ighalo wasn’t quite able to reach the ball.
The hosts suffered an early injury blow when midfield Ogenyi Onazi picked up a knock and had to be replaced by Ndubisi Agu. Zambia saw less of the ball but they had the better chances, with the powerful and speedy Alex Ngonga proving a real handful: just past the half hour mark he outmuscled Leon Balogun before stabbing a shot over the crossbar, while on 36 minutes he hit the post with a long-range effort which took an awkward bounce.
Nigeria responded with half-chances on the volley for all of John Obi Mikel, Ighalo and Simon, but none of them troubled goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
However, the Zambian ‘keeper was called into action in the 57th minute to make a superb save from a looping header by Wilfred Ndidi – the attempt looked destined for the back of the net. With the victory, 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.
Meanwhile, President Mohammadu Buhari has congratulated the victorious super Eagles on their victory over Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, South south Nigeria. The President, who described the hard-earned victory as “very sweet, soothing and a 57th Independence Anniversary gift to the nation,” applauded the nation’s senior men’s football team for the feat of making Nigeria the first African country to qualify for Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament, with a match left to play.
As he joined millions of football-loving Nigerians in rejoicing with the players and their coaching crew, President Buhari called on all Nigerians to apply the values of perseverance, resilience, discipline, hard work and team-spirit which propelled the footballers to excel since the beginning of the qualifying matches, to all sectors of national life.
The President promised that the Federal Government would continue to support the team within available resources so that the nation will maximise the unifying potential of sports in general and football. He enjoined the entire team and Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) officials to remain steadfast and focused when they begin preparations for the global football fiesta to make Nigeria proud.
President Buhari urged public, private organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to continue to assist the Super Eagles as the team heads for a sixth appearance at the summit of football competition. The President also appreciated the government of Akwa Ibom State for the invaluable support it has been rendering to the football team, describing it as worthy of emulation.