Nigeria’s golden duo out for more

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The 5-0 rout of Guatemala by a rampant Nigeria in their opening Group D encounter at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 was just reward for the African giants, whose stylish and coordinated attacking display delighted fans and experts alike.

On closer analysis, credit for the Nigerians’ footballing master class must go first and foremost to strike duo Ahmed Musa and Edafe Egbedi, whose tactical awareness and skill paved the way for the win.

It took just eight minutes for the pair to combine for the first goal. Musa evaded Jose Andrade on the left and played an inch-perfect cross from the by-line to find Egbedi, who fired home from ten yards.

Nigeria’s second came in the 39th minute, with the two players once again at the centre of the action. This time Musa’s low cross from the other side curled right across the box into the path of Egbedi, who side-footed home with his left from no more than five yards.

Speaking to after the match, Ahmed Musa attributed the special understanding he has with his strike partner to a long history of playing together. “We’ve played alongside each other for quite a while,” said the 18 year-old. “Then during the qualifiers, Egbedi was able to learn even more about how I play and the understanding between us has just got better.”

Egbedi describes his partner as “his brother”, proof of the strong bond that unites the pair on and off the field. “Before the last game he encouraged me,” said Egbedi. “He said that if I played to the best of my ability I could well score, and he was right! He set me up twice and I got the goals.”

The 18-year-old Egbedi has nothing but praise for his fellow striker: “I know he’s a fantastic player and very quick, so when he sets off will the ball I always try to get myself into a scoring position. We’ve played together a lot, sure, but that’s not all. We train together, pray together and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Five unanswered goals might suggest that Nigeria had very little trouble overcoming their Central American opponents, but Musa insists that this was not exactly the case. “I’m really pleased, because it’s important for any team to win the first game at a tournament like this. We won 5-0 but it was not an easy victory at all!”

“But the players are enormously confident that we can go further,” he added quickly. “Our goal is to beat every team they put in front of us.”

For Edafe Egbedi, scoring twice in his first FIFA U-20 World Cup match was a dream come true, and he’s looking forward to more in the games ahead. “I’m happy with those two goals,” said the young sharpshooter, who netted three times at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009, “because for me it’s like a dream. I told my team-mates I’d score before the game, and look what happened!”

Asked about Nigeria’s upcoming contest with Croatia on Wednesday, just two days after his 18th birthday, Egbedi said, “I really believe we can beat Croatia. We won’t just win, we’ll play better than them, and personally speaking I hope I can get my name onto the scoreboard again.”

Whether he finds the target or not, Egbedi’s attacking combination with Ahmed Musa poses the kind of threat opponents would be foolish to ignore. 

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