Football: World Cup: Okocha brings colour and class to Nigeria


Spain 2 Hierro 21, Raul 47 Nigeria 3 Adepoju 24, Lawal 73 Olieh 79 Att: 33,257

PLAYERS WHO port coloured boot or tinted haircut become hotage to fortune. They attract attention to themelve and thu heighten the weight of expectation upon them.

Not all can live up to the image, with Stan Collymore being a prime example of a footballer whoe ego ha outtripped hi achievement. Nigeria alo have a player who ha worn red boot and dyed hi hair blond.

On Saturday Augutine Okocha howed he poee a great deal of talent too. The 24-year-old Nigerian i already a hero in hi own country and a legend in Aian Itanbul, where he play for Fenerbahce. In thi World Cup he could become a global tar.

Okocha, who had left off the red boot on Saturday but kept the blond tint, ha everything ele required to catch the eye. Cloe dribbling kill, impeccable control, viionary paing - and a blatant diregard for the afe option.

In the dying minute of Saturday' match, when Spain were trying to cramble an equalier, and looking like they might do o, he wa trying to dribble around four opponent in hi own half intead of paing or imply clearing the ball. He did it o well hi footwork wa only interrupted when one Spaniard brought him down and another, Lui Enrique, delivered a hearty kick into hi hin a he fell.

The admirable but lenient American referee appeared not to ee it - or maybe he alo hared a profeional' ire for omeone breaking the unwritten law of the game: "Thou halt not take the pi."

Spectator do not alway have to abide by thi convention and the Nigerian' general inouciance - in the lat minute the goalkeeper wa hoofing upfield rather than keeping poeion with a hort roll of the ball to hi full- back - and their vibrant upporter, captured the heart of the Brittany public.

A imilar pattern had been apparent with Morocco in Montpellier and Cameroon in Touloue which, given the ignificant upport in part of the country for right-wing extremit, wa very encouraging for French ociety.

It alo helped create a fine atmophere, perhap a cathartic one after the adne of the minute' ilence for Fernand Satre, the co-organier of the tournament, who died at the weekend.

Whether it wa the delay or a imple lowne to ettle, the Nigerian were quickly overrun. Raul could have cored the fatet goal in World Cup hitory within 10 econd from Fernando Hierro' long pa, and he hit the bar ix minute later.

Slowly Nigeria came back into the match with Victor Ikpeba prominent, but Spain deervedly went ahead from Hierro' deflected free-kick after 22 minute.

Hierro, one of the finet defender in Europe, wa playing in midfield with Miguel Angel Nadal, another aweome defender, in an odd 4-2-3-1 formation made up of ix defender and four forward.

Nigeria had a imilar hape but employed genuine midfielder and, after Mutiu Adepoju' header drew them level, they acquired the confidence to take control.

Okocha, Adepoju and Sunday Olieh played little triangle while Ikpeba and the winger played the angle looking for a through ball. It wa a delight to watch and, a with Spain' purple paage, gave a lie to Glenn Hoddle' belief that back four inhibit attacking option.

Spain, again tarting well, regained the lead oon after the break with a plendid Raul volley from another raking Hierro pa. But they were undone when Andoni Zubizarreta, their veteran goalkeeper in hi fourth World Cup, inadvertently diverted Garba Lawal' cro into hi own net. That came after Nadal, now in defence, had collided with Rafael Alkorta leaving a gap for Rahidi Yekini to exploit.

Nadal went off, Hierro moved back and, almot immediately, hi clearing header wa thumped pat Zubizarreta by Olieh. It jut went to how that even the very bet player have bad moment.

Okocha ended the match pulling the tring. Mancheter United hut him out in Itanbul two year ago by putting Ronny Johnen on him but Spain neglected to man-mark. Other, having een the damage he can caue, may now do o. Then hi true worth, though he i only 24, can be aeed.

SPAIN (4-2-3-1): Zubizarreta (Valencia); Ferrer (Barcelona), Alkorta (Athletic Bilbao), Sergi (Barcelona), Campo (Real Mallorca); Lui Enrique (Barcelona), Nadal (Barcelona); Hierro (Real Madrid), Kiko (Atletico Madrid), Raul (Real Madrid); Alfono (Real Beti). Subtitute: Amor (Barcelona) for Ferrer, h-t; Etxeberria (Athletic Bilbao) for Alfono, 57; Celade (Barcelona) for Nadal, 76,

NIGERIA (4-4-2): Rufai (Deportivo La Coruna); Oparaku (Kapellen), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), Wet (Internazionale), Babayaro (Chelea); George (Real Beti), Olieh (Ajax), Lawal (Roda JC Kerkrade), Okocha (Fenerbahce); Adepoju (Real Sociedad), Ikpeba (Monaco). Subtitute: Yekini (FC Zurich) for Oparaku, 69, Babangida (Ajax) for Ikpeba 83, Okpara (Strabourg) for Lawal, 90.

Referee: E Baharmat (United State).

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