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
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn