It was the end of June in Porto Alegre, when Lionel Messi bagged a brace in Argentina’s group match win at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. La Albiceleste won 3-2 against Nigeria, who still made it through to the Round of 16 despite that defeat. And both of the Super Eagles’ goals that day came from an attacker by the name of Ahmed Musa.
And now four years on, Musa and Messi will meet once again. At the end of June. At the FIFA World Cup. In the third and final group match. This time around however, the situation has been turned on its head. Lionel Messi and Co have just lost their second match against Croatia and find themselves bottom of the group, while Nigeria are currently second and have their knock-out stage fate in their own hands.
Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup record goal-scorer
The Super Eagles have Ahmed Musa to thank for that. When this FIFA World Cup got under way, he was still regarded as an impact substitute. Against Iceland, an impact is certainly what he made, bagging both goals and becoming the record World Cup goal-scorer for his country in the process.
The first was a counter-attack where Musa kept his cool admirably, while the second was a sparkling solo effort from the left side of midfield that secured the three points for Nigeria. “I’m part of a team – one that I’m very proud of," said Musa in a very humble interview with FIFA.com, "so I’d really like to thank them for all of their support."
His twin strikes had a liberating effect on the young Nigerian team, who looked like a totally different side with the confidence that his goals imbued. They will no doubt carry this belief in their own abilities into the match with Argentina – especially Musa himself. "I don’t think that it will be too difficult for me to come up against Argentina. We know what the stakes are – we have to win."
Speed is one of Musa’s chief advantages, with Nigerian coach Gernot Rohr saying: "the way he drives us forward could be a real advantage for us." They will certainly need that advantage, having met Argentina four times at the World Cup without registering even a point.
After the match against Iceland, a journalist at the press conference re-named him Lionel Musa, conjuring up a huge smile from the man in question. "You know what? I remember another time that I scored two, for Leicester City. We were playing Barcelona, and Lionel Messi was in the side that day!"
Perhaps it is fate, therefore… Even so, he will have to give things a little nudge. Between Musa’s first World Cup brace in 2014 and his second in 2018, there was a gap of 272 tournament minutes. The Nigerian fans will not be able to wait that long and are undoubtedly hoping that the next one comes in the final group match.
It would seem, however, that Argentina are the ideal opponents for Musa and his goals to write another page of history. Maybe Ahmed will once more transform into his alter ego Lionel, and then there will certainly be smiles all round from the Super Eagles.