Arsenal of England attacker, Alex Iwobi has sent out words of appreciation to Nigerian football fans, with a view that it was unflinching support from the soccer faithful that made it possible for the Super Eagles to reach Russia 2018 World Cup unbeaten.
Making his thoughts known in the wake of Friday’s 1-1 draw away to Algeria, The Gunners’ former under-21 team captain said he was happy to be part of the historic Nigerian team that got the ticket to Russia with a match to spare.
In the race to Russia 2018, Iwobi figured four times in the third round of the World Cup qualifiers, and missed the games against Cameroon due to injury even though he was included in the initial squad list.
Nigeria are unbeaten in 37 World Cup qualifiers since 2004, a streak that comprises of 25 wins and 12 draws, and only Spain have a better record.
A second half strike from John Ogu was cancelled out by Yacine Brahimi in the tension soaked cracker in Constantine.
With the Super Eagles through to the 2018 World Cup with 13 points in the bag, Eagles coach Gernot Rohr elected to field fringe players in a 4-3-3 formation.
As many as five players that started the penultimate round of World Cup qualifiers against Zambia in the shape of Victor Moses, Elderson Echiejile, Odion Ighalo, Eddy Onazi and Moses Simon had to pull out from the squad due to injuries.
In addition, Rohr opted to rest his substantive skipper John Obi Mikel, albeit with one eye on the upcoming friendly match against Argentina on Tuesday, November 14.
Mainz defender Leon Balogun captained the team and paired with William Troost Ekong at the heart of the defence. Shehu Abdullahi and Ola Aina played in the full backs.
Israel based Ogu, Oghenekaro Etebo and Onyinye Ndidi sat in the midfield, with Arsenal youngster Alex Iwobi getting game time too.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Anthony Nwakaema played upfront.
Five minutes into the game, Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick was easily saved by Nigeria keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Nigeria then started dominating possession as they looked to break the deadlock.
Algeria forward Mahrez burst into the Nigeria box, but his Leicester City FC teammate Onyinye Ndidi stopped him with 15 minutes on the clock.
Ndidi pushed forward and unleashed a shot which was blocked as the match approached the half-hour mark.
In the 35th minute, Ferhat tried a through ball, but the advancing Slimani was caught offside.
The game lacked the needed place with both sides knocking the ball around and committing fouls.
Leicester City striker Slimani cut a frustrated figure as he was caged by Balogun and Ekong as the forward tried to impose himself.
At the end of the first half, it was a scrappy one as the two sides played without motivation.
Algeria should have gone ahead but they missed two good chances early in the second half.
Algeria attackers Slimani and Mahrez were both fouled in the middle of the park as the hosts looked to break the deadlock.
Algeria keeper Chaouchi produced a good save to deny Nigeria forward Iwobi.
Former Académica playmaker Ogu was the man for big occasion as he curled home an unstoppable bullet beyond the goalkeeper 25 metres to goal in the 62nd minute. It was a beauty to behold.
Slimani missed the target from close range with Nigeria keeper Ezenwa well beaten. The hosts applied some pressure on the Nigeria defence.
Nigeria were looking to contain Algeria in the closing stages of the encounter but it wasn’t meant to be as the Fennecs were awarded a dubious penalty after Brahimi was fouled in the Nigeria box.
Brahimi converted the spot-kick in the 88th minute, but Nigeria ended the qualifiers with four wins and two draws in six matches, much to Iwobi’s delight.
Iwobi, who scored the lone goal that sealed the World Cup ticket on home soil in Uyo last month, further reckoned that the backing the Eagles received from their supporters at home and abroad paved way for their historic feats in all the qualification fixtures.
”Unbeaten And Top Of The Group! Thanks For All Your Support During This Qualifying Campaign 🦅🇳🇬 #SuperEagles,” the Arsenal youngster tweeted.
After being in the England youth setup for the early part of his career, Iwobi says he is not missing anything after making the switch, as he believes he is making both his parents and all Nigerians proud by starring for the Eagles.
Iwobi is much more enchanted by the fact that he was the one who scored the lone goal that sealed Nigeria’s World Cup ticket, in a 1-0 win against Zambia last month in Uyo, and says he just cannot wait to line out in the green-and-white shirts at Russia 2018.
“To go to the World Cup you can see it’s not just the players’ dream, it’s the fans’ dream as well and for me to get the goal for us to go through I’m just proud to do that.
“Yeah it’s basically my family, where they’re from, where I’m from it’s my homeland, so it’s always an honour to wear the green, white and green.
“I mean I’ve seen so many kids on the street when we’re like in the bus, they’re screaming “go Nigeria, go Nigeria”, so to represent them I’m just proud,” the 21-year-old attacker enthused.