Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi scored a brace as Nigeria produced a flawless second half performance to thrash World Cup favourites Argentina 4-2 in a highly entertaining friendly encounter on Tuesday night.
The Argentines raced to a two-goal lead in the first half before Nigeria pulled one back late in the half. Ever Banega scored from a free kick on 28 minutes after goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi bizarrely picked up the ball outside his penalty box before Sergio Aguero doubled the lead six minutes later when he tucked home Christian Pavon’s cut-back.
The Nigerians looked out of sorts and failed to test the Argentine defence for the most part of the first half but got an opportunity two minutes to the break after a foul on Iwobi. Leicester’s Kelechi Iheancho curled it over the wall expertly with goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin helping it further into the net.
Nigeria came into the second half a different animal and coach Gernot Rohr made three changes at the break: Tyrone Ebuehi replaced Abdullahi Shehu while goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and wing back Brian Idowu came on for their debuts, replacing Akpeyi and Ola Aina respectively.
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Argentina made a change of their own, Dario Benedetto replacing goalscorer Sergio Aguero.
The newly introduced Nigerian wing backs seemed to settle in quickly in the 3-5-2 formation and the three-time African champions levelled seven minutes inside the second half through Iwobi who side-footed Iheanacho’s pass beyond Marchesin.
Nigeria soon went in front two minutes later after a mini break saw Iheanacho again touch the ball rather fortuitously to the path of debutant Idowu who hit home his first time effort.
Nigeria were then in a full confidence mode and stroke passes about with flair and panache.
They effectively killed the game off through a moment of brilliance from Iwobi. The Starlet picked up a pass from Ahmed Musa (who had just three minutes earlier replaced Iheanacho), bravely nutmegged Javier Mascherano, going through the Barca defender and Pezzella like a train which found the right track, before firing a left-footed effort beyond the hapless Marchesin.
At the back, Nigeria remained disciplined with Tyrone Ebuehi snuffing out all sorts of dangers down his flank while William Troost-Ekong assumed a leadership role after Leon Balogun (who was only half fit to start) was replaced by Kenneth Omeruo.
Debuting goalkeeper Francis Uzoho also had a say in the final result as he kept a composure, unbelievable for a 19-year old while producing a superb fingertip save to deny Benedetto five minutes from time.
Nigeria held on to the victory and will now commence their World Cup preparations in earnest.