They got back to playing the way we knew they could. And they got the result we all wanted: a victory that handed Nigeria the last medal of the podium trilogy in Olympics football event. Gold in Atlanta 20 years ago, Silver in Beijing eight years ago, and Bronze in front of a sparse crowd at the Estadio Mineirao. The U23 team got some things right, before their comical side resurfaced…
It was obvious from the kick-off that the team had shaken off the lethargy that afflicted the players in the semi-final. The passing was smooth and mostly accurate, and the players didn’t show any nerves despite the news of yet another controversy brewing around the team.
Mikel Obi again proved himself a leader of this team with an awesome display. Mikel’s form at the Olympics has been one of the hot topics of this competition, with some mischievously suggesting he only plays well at age grade tournaments. Even so, the Chelsea man created two of the goals, and is without doubt Nigeria’s best performer of the Olympics.
The major beneficiary of Mikel’s good form in this game was Sadiq Umar, who found his groove again. The lanky striker ghosted into a good position to turn in Mikel’s low cross for the first goal. That must have done his confidence a world of good, because he scored another fine individual effort to make it a brace. The fact that he did not celebrate either goal meant he wasn’t satisfied with his Olympic production.
The attack worked together, and it showed in the profit. The forward line had looked disjointed without Oghenekaro Etebo, until the Third Place game. Mikel linked well Sadiq Umar and Aminu Umar, it was only Imoh Ezekiel who appeared not to have received the memo.
The ugly part of the game appeared when Siasia’s boys switched off in defence, and conceded two goals in 15 minutes. They were lucky Emmanuel Daniel was on top of his game, there were errors in that defence that a better team would have punished.
Still, the Bronze medal is deserved!