Despite not registering a single shot on goal in the entire first half, Nigeria dominated possession against Iceland. Whatever head coach Gernot Rohr said at half-time clearly had an impact, as Nigeria took fewer than 20 seconds after the restart to create an attempt on target.
Their dominance in possession was eventually rewarded with Ahmed Musa’s two brilliant finishes, giving Nigeria their sixth victory at a World Cup finals. Interestingly, 100 per cent of those six victories have come against European opposition – a run they will be hoping to break against Argentina, who have beaten them in the group stages of a World Cup no fewer than four times.
Neymar goes third
Brazil needed more than 90 minutes to break down a stubborn Costa Rican defence, with Philippe Coutinho poking home his second goal of the tournament before Neymar added a second to open his Russia 2018 account. The 26-year-old’s 56th international goal from 87 caps takes him one ahead of Romario and out into third on his own in the all-time Brazil list. Only Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62) remain to be caught.
Neymar looked more fresh against Costa Rica than in his previous encounter against Switzerland. The PSG forward made 11 key passes and 14 dribbles from the left side, where with Coutinho and Marcelo he was a constant source of attack for Brazil. Coutinho’s 92 per cent pass accuracy – the highest of any midfielder or attacker on the pitch – ensured that Brazil carefully maintained possession high up the pitch.
Despite Switzerland only losing one of their previous 23 matches, they went behind to Serbia and Aleksandar Mitrovic – netting his 17th international goal from 39 caps – early on. The Swiss fought back in the second half, however, with Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri both scoring at a second consecutive World Cup tournament. Their team’s come-from-behind victory was the first of the tournament in game number 26.