Nigeria’s victory was 'very tactical' - Obi
For the most part, Nigeria's 1-0 win over Zambia on Saturday was a hair-tearing tactical duel, not particularly easy on the eye, and left expectant home fans restless until Alex Iwobi struck on 73 minutes.
Many fans went into the World Cup qualifying game fearing the worst, while praying for the Super Eagles not to drop the ball.
And when Zambia hit the post in the second half, palpitating hearts could be heard across the continent.
But despite those few chances created by Chipolopolo, the Super Eagles had the game under control for the most part, although the early loss of midfielder Ogenyi Onazi threatened to derail that as the Zambians seized the midfield for a while.
But with Iwobi's introduction, the Eagles cranked things up a notch and could have scored twice before the Arsenal man finally made the difference, booking his side's trip to Russia for their sixth World Cup appearance.
Captain John Mikel Obi says any difficulty was foreseen and planned for, telling KweséESPN: "It was very tactical.
"We wanted to press them more in the first half because we wanted to get the game over early and we knew they would come at us.
"We knew there was going to be space between the lines because their defence was very slow so we knew if we could press them high we could get the ball and create a few more chances.
"That's why we lost some energy but towards the end of the game we started to get more confidence and we stepped it up."
Mikel's comments reflect the growing strength of the Nigeria team, especially regarding tactical awareness and self-belief. While an early goal would have helped calm nerves, there was no loss of discipline as the Zambians threatened in patches.
On a night when usually outstanding centreback Leon Balogun looked slightly out of sorts in spells, and Mikel Agu looked well below the standard set by Onazi, the Eagles needed to dig deep.
"We just spoke to ourselves and we knew this is our last chance at qualifying for the World Cup at our home and we were not going to lose it in front of our fans," the skipper said.
"We could not lose our heads. We knew we had more quality and we had players who could make a difference, so there was no need to panic and we just needed to keep playing our game. We knew if we could take advantage of the spaces between the lines, we had the players who could take the chances, even if it was just one opportunity."