By Jude Egbas
A goal each from Mikel Obi and Aminu Umar was enough to sweep Nigeria into the semi finals of the football event of the Rio Olympics at the expense of Denmark.
A couple of things we learned from that encounter tonight…
Jesus Emmanuel saves
Goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel in goal for the Nigeria U-23 team sure earned his allowances on the night. The story of this game could have panned out differently had the Danes gone past him in one good spell for the Scandinavians before the break. Emmanuel was sure the difference between both sides in the first period, following one instinctive reflex save with another.
We witnessed his nerves jangle towards the death with an easy catch becoming a slippery one, but Emmanuel had done enough at this point to head into my book as the man of the match, nonetheless.
Thriving in adversity
No one should gloss over the fact that the Nigerians went into this game on the back of perennial administrative bugaboo from the sports ministry, the national sports commission and the Nigerian soccer federation. 48hrs earlier, the players had even threatened to boycott the game if their allowances weren’t paid and coach Samson Siasia had thrown his weight behind that course of action should that become absolutely necessary.
News filtered in earlier today that a bumbling sports minister Solomon Dalung had brought out the cheque book before the country could embarrass itself before a global viewing audience, paying all outstanding allowances owed the players and the technical crew to the last dime.
No matter, because when the whistle went off to herald the start of proceedings, the Nigerians showed little signs of boardroom and administrative mess. Yeah, the Danes had that 20 minute spell before the break when they could have drawn level, but Nigeria was the better side for most of the game. Imoh Ezekiel was a delight to watch and Mikel kept things simple in midfield.
Talk about thriving in adversity.
The Nigerians couldn’t keep their heads
The “Dream Team” will face Germany in the semis without dependable ‘play-maker’ John Mikel Obi and Okechukwu Azubuike. Both were guilty of needless fouls that earned them bookings, robbing the team of their services against a German side that is everyone’s favorite to nick gold.
William-Troost Ekong was also guilty of losing his head on occasion and made it through the first half playing like he hadn’t slept a wink. Sadiq Umar was also asking for a booking at some point. There were also a couple of Nigerian bookings across the park that were totally uncalled for and plenty of show-boating from Stanley Amuzie and a couple of others that could have proved costly on another day.
Against the Germans, the team will need to keep its head, every minute of play. The Germans are very tricky customers.
Jude Egbas is on Twitter as @egbas