COLOMBIA — Nigeria needed only draw to take first place in the Group D, but not diverging from their typical attacking displays beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 on Saturday to stamp authority on their fine group campaign and set up a Round of 16 encounter with England. The Saudis, on the other hand, will meet Brazil.
The Africans in standard form, committed numbers forward, but it was Saudi Arabia who had the first chance. With just two minutes gone, Saudi defender Salam Aldawsari tested Nigerian goalkeeper Dami Paul, but the keeper was threatened little by the attempt.
There was little in the way of goalmouth action, despite a dangerous shot from Uche Nwofor in the 18th minute. The striker’s effort deflected off a Saudi defender and nearly found its way into the back of the net.
Saudi Arabia settled into a counter attacking approach, and on 30 minutes Ali Alzubaldi sent in a fine cross from the right wing, but Yahya Dagriri narrowly missed the chance to tap home. And after a free-kick opportunity for Nigeria, Dagriri received the clearance to counter with pace. Nearly surprising Paul, the number seven tried his luck with shot from the left side.
Dagriri was then left cursing his efforts as he missed what could and should have been a goal for Saudi Arabia. Salem Aldawsari found the forward unmarked in the area, but he ballooned his golden opportunity over the crossbar.
Nigeria quickly punished Dagriri for the miss too, as Omoh Ojabu passed behind to Ahmed Musa from inside the area, and the number seven fired a rocket past Abdullah Alsdairy to take a one-goal lead into the break.
Saudi Arabia searched for an equaliser at the start of the second half, but a dangerous free-kick from Abdullah Otayf was denied by Paul. Omoh Ojabu was pressing at the other end, troubling the Saudi defence, although was unable to get a powerful shot off.
On 80 minutes, Saudi Arabia nearly had the equaliser they desperately needed when Nigeria keeper Paul mishandled a simple back pass.
The keeper scrambled and ultimately saved himself from the tragic fate of scoring an own goal. In the final 10 minutes, Nigeria pushed to double their lead and ensure a first place finish atop of the group.
Olarenwaju Kayode put the game out of reach, pushing a fine volley pass from Nwofor into the back of Alsdairy’s net.