Before the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, only a few Nigerian football fans could imagine that a saviour could emerge in Ahmed Musa, a player many love to hate.
Musa, 25 has in his very own little way made a mark in different spheres of Nigerian football. At 18, he emerged top scorer in Nigeria’s top flight in his debut season with eighteen goals – a record-equalling feat. That, instantly made him a bride in Nigeria football and what followed was an immediate transfer to Europe, with Dutch side VVV Venlo.
— ?? Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) June 22, 2018
His move to Europe set the tone for what would be a dream career with the former Kano Pillars star being useful for the national teams from Under-20 to senior level.
Many, perhaps including yours sincerely have criticised the nimble footed star of often being erratic for some inconsistent displays with the senior national team but notwithstanding, he has made his mark in his own way, scoring elegant goals when they matter most.
Musa’s wonder strike against Kenya in Nairobi helped Nigeria to a 1-0 win over the East Africans during World Cup qualification in 2013 – a goal he holds dear to his heart.
“I’m always happy to score goals and that one of 2013 I will say is the best for me (for Nigeria) because it also helped us to go to the World Cup,” said Musa.
At the World Cup finals in 2014, Musa etched his name in gold by becoming the first ever Nigerian to score two goals in a single World Cup game by the virtue of his goals against Argentina in Porto Alegre – those were well taken goals.
It seemed as though Musa’s national team career never existed in the space between 2014 and 2018. His most notable contribution was another fine finish against Sudan in Abuja in a 2015 AFCON qualifier which ended in failure for the Eagles.
Nigeria’s manager Gernot Rohr has always emphasised before the tournament that Ahmed Musa would play a crucial role for him in the tournament. Fortunately, the defeat to Croatia opened the way for such possibility.
In a further touch of fortune, Rohr tweaked his formation to afford Musa a chance to play in his most preferred forward role, alongside Leicester City teammate Kelechi Iheanacho. The rest, is history – a brace which made him Nigeria’s record highest scorer at the FIFA World Cup and the first to score in more than one World Cup tournament.
“For me, I think I’m very good in breaking the records,” Musa said cheekily in response to my question to him.
STATTO@Ahmedmusa718 is the first Nigerian to score in consecutive World Cup tournaments.
Musa is the 1st Nigerian to score 2 goals in a World Cup game, now, first to score TWO goals in consecutive #WorldCup
Ahmed Musa is Nigeria's highest scorer in World Cup with 4 goals.
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) June 22, 2018
“I feel very happy in being the top scorer at the World Cup, it is not easy, but I have to thank my teammates for giving me the support and the coach for believing in me. So I thank everybody for their support and I think we made everybody happy with the win.”
On one’s day of reckoning, everything falls into place. There is something special about Russia, and especially Volgograd for Musa. He has grown into a cult hero status in the country especially at capital city Moscow due to his productive spells at CSKA Moscow.
He is virtually the most recognized Nigerian football star among Russian fans and they mention his name to you anytime they find out you are from Ахмед Муса’s country.
“For me, I think I like this place (Volgograd Arena) because I always score whenever I play here. It’s not my first time here, I always score for CSKA Moscow whenever I play here against Smedova,” he added.
His goals on Friday night perhaps depicted one that knows every corner of that pitch.
His powerful a half-volley from inside the box smirks of one that knew the height of the goal post while his pacy 60 metre run with the ball inside the box only reminds one of a Thierry Henry at Highbury. To provide gloss, when two Icelandic defenders thought they had covered the goal post after he rounded the goalkeeper, Musa still saw a space no one else saw to put the ball in.
Nigeria's last four #WorldCup goals:
Watch out, Argentina. pic.twitter.com/FNUl9OT4sS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 22, 2018
The ground was fertile, the team shape was made for him and the records were assuredly taken by him