Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 18 News List

WORLD CUP: Experimental Nigeria side held by Scotland

Reuters, LONDON

Nigeria’s Uche Nwofor scores his side’s second goal against Scotland in their international friendly at Craven Cottage in London on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

An experimental Nigeria side featuring mainly fringe players and hopefuls began their World Cup warmups with a 2-2 draw against Scotland on Wednesday in a hugely entertaining game at Craven Cottage in London.

Although the African champions only rescued a draw with a 90th-minute strike from substitute Uche Nwofor, they deserved it as they showed plenty of ambition, drive and attacking flair to encourage coach Stephen Keshi. His side face Iran, Bosnia and Argentina in World Cup Group F next month.

Scotland went ahead through Charlie Mulgrew after 10 minutes, before Michael Uchebo equalized for Nigeria four minutes before halftime. Scotland regained the lead when Azubuike Egwuekwe put through his own net after 52 minutes, before Nwofor struck just before the end.

There was a superb atmosphere outside Fulham’s ground next to the River Thames prior to kickoff and an even better one inside, with Scottish bagpipes swirling in the air to the beat of Nigerian drums.

One Nigeria fan held up a banner reading “Nigerians Don’t Fix Matches, We Win Them” in response to a report from Britain’s National Crime Agency to the Scottish FA that Asian gamblers had targeted the match to fix.

There was no evidence during the game that it was anything other than above board.

Scotland, who have not qualified for the World Cup, but are now unbeaten in their past six matches, still had plenty to play for, with coach Gordon Strachan honing his team for the Euro 2016 qualifiers that start later this year.

It was a fortunate opener though, with James Morrison’s booming shot hitting Mulgrew’s upraised foot. Mulgrew had his back to the goal, but nevertheless sent the ball looping over goalkeeper Austin Ejide and into the net.

Nigeria equalized after 41 minutes when the tall, powerfully built Uchebo shot from the edge of the penalty area and wheeled away in delight as the ball took a wicked deflection off Grant Hanley, wrong-footing goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

Scotland regained the lead when defender Alan Hutton played in a precise ball from the byline and with Hanley forcing in his shot, Egwuekwe turned the ball into the roof of his own net.

Nwofor equalized with an angled shot after Scotland failed to stop a Nigeria attack and although Scotland had two goals disallowed, one for a foul on the Nigeria goalkeeper and another for offside, the result was a fair one.

MEXICO 3, ISRAEL 0

AP, MEXICO CITY

Mexico got two goals from Miguel Layun to beat Israel 3-0 in a pre-World Cup friendly on Wednesday, but got a scare when starting goalkeeper Jesus Corona was injured in a collision with a teammate.

Layun scored in the 42nd and 62nd minutes, while Marco Fabian added a third in the 85th minute.

Corona sustained a head injury after crashing into Francisco Rodriguez and was replaced in the 70th minute by Guillermo Ochoa. He was the team’s starter through most of Mexico’s World Cup qualifying campaign and last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

“We don’t know yet what is wrong with Jesus. He is going to be tested and then we can give a status,” Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said. “I spoke briefly with him and he said that he was fine, but we need to wait.”

Herrera did not rule out going on the pre-World Cup US tour without him.

Mexico are set to play Ecuador on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, then face Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday next week in Chicago and close their warmup schedule against Portugal on Friday next week in Foxborough, Massachusetts. They travel to Sao Paulo the next day.

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