President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick has dedicated the Super Eagles’ 2-0 win over Iceland at the FIFA World Cup on Friday to President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), while reiterating his well –known position that the Super Eagles will dazzle the world at the 2018 FIFA World Cup
“The NFF dedicates this win to President Muhammadu Buhari for his massive support and fatherly role to the NFF and the National Teams. Our President has created a much –conducive environment for football to thrive.
“I also want to specially appreciate the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; the Senate President, Distinguished Senator Bukola Saraki and Members of the Presidential delegation led by the Honourable Minister of Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung and including the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Olusade Adesola and our IOC Member, Engineer Habu Gumel.”
The NFF supremo also expressed appreciation to Senators and Members of the House of Representatives who are in Russia supporting the team, as well as major stakeholders, including former NFF Presidents and General Secretaries, Nigeria legends including Chief Olusegun Odegbami who gave a stirring pep –talk to the team before the match, former Super Eagles’ coach Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and other prominent Nigerians who watched the game in Volgograd.
“I appreciate the hard work and passion of my colleagues on the NFF Board over the years, the commitment and loyalty of Members of the NFF Congress, the dedication of NFF Management and Staff, and other stakeholders include club owners and our army of media representatives who are here in Russia. I want to assure everyone that Friday’s win over Iceland only signalled the beginning of great tidings in Russia.”
Ahmed Musa scored twice and rocked the crossbar in a telling second period for Nigeria, as the Eagles leapfrogged Argentina and Iceland to second place in Group D.
“I have always believed this would be a great World Cup campaign for Nigeria. We have the team that can do it and this was proved again on Friday.
“It is important that every Nigerian continues to support the team with prayers. This squad is capable of going far in the tournament to make Nigeria and Africa proud.”
The 2018 World Cup FIFA Fan Fest, venues created new World Cup stadiums to cater for non ticket-holding fans, have already welcomed 2.5 million visitors.
The FIFA Fan Fest venues are the best place outside the stadium to experience the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
World football governing body FIFA, the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the Russia 2018 Host Cities, who announced this on Friday, said they were thrilled about this development.
The 2.5 million number is a record in the history of the innovation which began at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, because Russia 2018 has just gone 23 matches. “The fact that this 2.5 million milestone has been reached so early in the tournament is the living proof of that the party is just getting started though…!’’ Alexei Sorokin, Chairman of Russia 2018 LOC, said on Friday.
The FIFA Fan Fests are open on all match days so that football fans can watch the matches live and enjoy an exciting music and cultural entertainment programme, free of charge.
National and international visitors from all over the world flow into the venues, which are located at some of Russia’s most iconic locations.
The tournament’s official mascot Zabivaka and Ambassadors Marcel Desailly and Alexander Kerzhakov are currently touring through Russia to meet and greet the FIFA Fan Fest visitors.
Since Germany 2006, the FIFA Fan Fest has become part of the Official Programme and continued for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Almost 30 million people have attended these events over these past three editions.
With 4th, 44th and 88th minutes goals, Cristiano Ronaldo proved on Friday that he is one of the greatest footballers of all time. The Real Madrid star scored the hat-trick for Portugal against Spain in the fourth match of Russia 2018 World Cup. Diego Costa scored twice for Spain in the 24th and 55th minutes while Nacho scored the third goal for Spain in the 58th minute.
The 3-3 thriller was witnessed by thousands of fans. Every World Cup finals needs great players to do great things and there are few who intervene more consistently at the great crossroads of history than Ronaldo, king of the big stage and all that happens on it.
Just a hat-trick to declare in this, his 151st cap for Portugal against the great Spain generation of the 21st century, including a third from a free-kick which was one of those moments when he insists that the world stops what it is doing to watch. He hitched up his shorts, shut his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and then clipped a right foot shot around the wall so accurately that David De Gea did not even spring for it.
This was a World Cup game for all the ages, and if Russia 2018 had so far been about narrow margins and small nations overachieving, then this was the deluxe edition featuring two great sides and ultimately one historical footballer. These were Ronaldo’s 82nd, 83rd and 84th goals of a golden international career over which his game has changed but his contribution to Portugal, a better team that the Euro 2016 winners, but still quite ordinary, has never flagged.
There is no side that knows him better than Spain do, no defence with more experience of playing with and against him and yet Ronaldo locates vulnerability wherever he goes and whoever he plays. These goals meant that he became only the fourth man in history to score in four World Cup finals and the first to do so in eight straight international tournaments, and it is not simply that he did so, it was also that he knew that he had to. He twice gave Portugal the lead, although this was still a great Spain performance at times, coming back through two goals from Diego Costa and then given the lead by Nacho.
How does Ronaldo do it? He exploited his Real Madrid team-mate Nacho to win a penalty for the first, he was gifted the second by De Gea’s blunder and the third was one of those moments for which he lives. He won the free-kick, just right of centre and the perfect distance and who is to say that all that was not part of the plan, one more shrewd move in an evening that was full of them.
Even so, it could have been worse for Spain who dominated possession as usual but were flustered by Ronaldo early on and were unable to rely on De Gea. They broke down Portugal’s ageing defence piece by piece in the energy sapping heat of this stadium by the Black Sea and really should have won the game once Nacho gave them the lead. If the sacking of Julen Lopetegui affected them it was perhaps on their lack of composure in the early stages but they soon found their stride.
The half ended with Ronaldo surreptitiously glancing up at the big screens to check out his own celebration in the way that he always permits himself to do after yet another great career plot-twist. In one half of football, he had scored his 82nd and 83rd goals of a remarkable international career against the one country that might know best how to stop him and for Portugal it was almost all going to plan.
There is nothing like watching the late-era Ronaldo for a lesson in economy of movement and swift identification of the maximum opportunity. The slo-mo on the stadium screens captured the look of foreboding on the face of his Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos as he realised he was not going to be able to cover the shot that was Ronaldo’s second. Ramos was late for the only show in town and the punishment was coming.
Either side of Diego Costa’s tremendous equaliser, a brutal roughing-up of Portugal’s defence, Ronaldo showed how that even on this, his 151st cap for his country at the age of 33 he knows precisely where to go on the pitch and when to get there. He tricked his Madrid team-mate Nacho into conceding the softest penalty within three minutes and later dragged Ramos all over the pitch.
Ronaldo has built a good partnership with the young Valencia forward Goncalo Guedes which sees the two of them balance one another’s positions well. The great goalscorer of Portugal drops into the No 10 position occasionally and flicks balls off, and there was one occasion when he cut a chance back to Guedes so unexpectedly that the younger man snatched at his chance out of what seemed surprise.
That was another fine break on the counter-attack against a Spain team were open when they lost the ball, and brilliantly exploited by Ronaldo. With barely two minutes played, he brushed off David Silva and bewildered Nacho with a stepover to win the penalty which he scored. His second went straight through David De Gea, a terrible mistake from the Manchester United goalkeeper who has made a series of them for his country in recent games. He seemed to have his left hand wrongly set to make what was a routine stop.
That second goal, a minute before half-time, undid Spain’s hard-work at getting back into the game. Both Isco and Andres Iniesta were lively but it was Costa’s ability to push the limits that got them the equaliser. On 24 minutes, he put an arm into Pepe’s jaw to get the ball and then twisted the hapless Jose Fonte both ways as he lined up the shot. Fonte was desperately awaiting reinforcements but they never arrived.
Costa’s second equaliser of the day showed again the lack of sharpness in Fonte and Pepe, when he turned in Busquets’s knockdown. Nacho’s right foot hit, in off the post was glorious. Iniesta was replaced by Thiago and even Costa was given a rest after an evening of hunting the Portugal defence. Spain looked set to close the game out and yet by the end they came very close to losing it.
When Ronaldo stepped up for his free-kick, De Gea, gave him the left side of his goal and relied on the wall which jumped as best it could – and there may even have been a flick of Busquets. Either way, it was enough and Portugal even created one more chance for Ronaldo, who these days knows that the big moments will always come his way.
*Culled from The Telegraph