World Cup: Nigeria's Sunday worship

World Cup: Spain are stunned as the Olympic champions come from behind to win in superb style; Spain 2 Nigeria 3 Hierro 21 Adepoju 24 Raul 47 Lawal 73 Oliseh 79 Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 33,257

RAIN poured from the western French skies and Michel Platini wept as the Stade de la Beaujoire stood in silence to remember Fernand Sastre, his co-president of the World Cup's organising committee, who died of lung cancer yesterday morning. Then, as the sun began to shine on these finals, Spain and Nigeria combined to produce a fittingly superlative spectacle as a tribute to Sastre's hard work of the last four years.

When a team links together in harmony, passing and moving with one purpose, it reminds you of the potential of this often maddening game. When two teams do so for long periods of the same match, as they did yesterday, the result is a rhythm of ball and man that renders all hype unnecessary and lifts the game up where it belongs.

Twice Spain, their running off the ball initially astonishing, took the lead; twice Nigeria came from behind with both passion and prowess and won a joyous, memorable victory with a marvellous 30-yard shot from Sunday Oliseh. These are two of the competition's dark horses, just outside the elite four or five favourites; we can only await the charge of the light horse brigade with breath bated.

"Yes, I know I look like the Pope," said Bora Milutinovic, Nigeria's Yugoslav coach, dressed in traditional Nigerian robes. "I feel like the Pope. This win is so special for me, for the players and for the people of Nigeria. I am so happy for the people of Nigeria. We showed great fighting spirit. But this is just one small step and today the luck was with us. I'm overjoyed because I didn't expect the result. I thought we were excellent. We need a minimum of five points."

The game almost got off to a sensational scoring start when, from Fernando Hierro's long ball forward from the kick-off, Uche Okechukwu headed only to Raul and his snap shot was just turned aside by Peter Rufai; 10 seconds gone and Bryan Robson's 27-second goal for England against France in Spain in 1982 almost eclipsed.

Within another couple of minutes Raul met Albert Ferrer's cross from the right with a firm header from around the penalty spot and watched it thump off the Nigerians' crossbar; Spain were making a breathtaking start to the game, the towering Hierro and Miguel Angel Nadal dominating midfield, though the Africans served some notice themselves, Victor Ikpeba's drive was touched away by Andoni Zubizarreta.

Then came the deserved Spanish lead. Mobi Oparaku was adjudged to have nudged Alfonso and Hierro curled home low and cannily the free-kick from 20 yards. Nigeria needed inspiration and they had Finidi George: within three minutes his corner from the left was met by Mutiu Adepoju, who headed home at the near post as Hierro proved himself human by failing to cut out the cross.

Now the Nigerians, mobility itself, were warming to the task of countering a side excitingly fluid of formation. Austin Okocha's crossfield pass to George had you purring, Oliseh amused by trying his luck from 55 yards - held by Zubizarreta. Ikpeba, though shooting into the side netting, looked twice the player he was for Monaco against Manchester United, showing how he could be African player of the year.

Reorganised at half-time, though, with Chelsea's imminent arrival Ferrer an absentee after the break, Spain took the lead within 80 seconds of the restart with a stunning goal. Hierro clipped a beautiful through ball over Oparaku into the inside left slot and Raul touched home a neat volley.

Surely Nigerian jaws would drop, as stereotype has it, and Spain would go on to a comfortable victory as the game stretched and mistakes increased on the sodden, tiring surface. Still the Nigerian percussionists in the crowd played on, though, optimism undimmed, and on the Nigerian team played. These are proud Olympic champions, after all. Indeed, and instead it was the Spanish who tired, unable to sustain the high tempo they had set themselves.

When Nadal and Rafael Alkorta went for the same ball, it left the substitute Rashidi Yekini in space to feed Garba Lawal on the left and his low cross was only turned into his own net by Zubizarreta, the goalkeeper clearly expecting the ball to be cut back more acutely.

When Raul turned wide Etxeberria's low cross for Spain soon after, you sensed they might come to regret it. And so they did: when Hierro's clearing header - by no means a bad one - from Okocha's long throw fell to Oliseh, his thumping half- volley flew into the net via the inside of a post. This time Zubizarreta was guiltless.

Even then it was not quite all over; Yekini seeking to gild the lily with a bicycle kick just too high and Sergi curling a shot inches too high at the other end. The Nigerians were all but home, though. They say an African side will win the World Cup one of these days. Is one day next month too soon?

Spain (4-2-3-1): Zubizarreta (Valencia); Ferrer (Barcelona), Alkorta (Athletic Bilbao), Sergi (Barcelona), Campo (Real Mallorca); Luis Enrique (Barcelona), Nadal (Barcelona); Hierro (Real Madrid), Kiko (Atletico Madrid), Raul (Real Madrid); Alfonso (Real Betis). Substitutes: Amor (Barcelona) for Ferrer, h-t; Etxeberria (Athletic Bilbao) for Alfonso, 57; Celades (Barcelona) for Nadal, 76,

Nigeria (4-4-2): Rufai (Deportivo La Coruna); Oparaku (Kapellen), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), West (Internazionale), Babayaro (Chelsea); George (Real Betis), Oliseh (Ajax), Lawal (Roda JC Kerkrade), Okocha (Fenerbahce); Adepoju (Real Sociedad), Ikpeba (Monaco). Substitutes: Yekini (FC Zurich) for Oparaku, 69, Babangida (Ajax) for Ikpeba 83, Okpara (Strasbourg) for Lawal, 90.

Referee: E Baharmast (USA).

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - CIPD - Buxton

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - CIPD - Buxton A highly...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server Engineer/ Systems Engineer (Windows Server, Networking)

£23000 - £27000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server Enginee...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Head of Regional Sales - Financial Software - £130,000 OTE

Negotiable: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly expanding, global Software/ SaaS Vendor ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Contact Centre Sales - £100,000 OTE

£35000 - £50000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: After a highly successful 2014, a m...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?