Nigeria’s U-23 soccer team lost 2-0 to Colombia at the Corinthians Arena, São Paulo on Wednesday. The loss was the Nigerian side’s first taste of defeat at the Rio Olympics.
Despite the loss, the Nigerian U-23 side also known as the Dream Team VI advances to quarterfinals. The Nigerians had won their opening two games in the qualifying round, beating Japan 5-4 in their first game before securing a 1-0 win against Sweden to guarantee them top spot in group B.
At kickoff, the Colombians were in a business mood, as they needed a straight win against the Nigerians to guarantee them any chance in the quarterfinals. That approach paid off early enough for the Colombians as Teofilo Gutierrez connected to a lovely pass from Diego Pabon and hit a superb strike that put the Colombians ahead after only four minutes of play.
The Colombians controlled the midfield while the Nigerian side, which had made five changes to its starting line-up, struggled to stamp their imprint on the game. Nigeria’s coach Samson Siasia had named Kingsley Madu, Saliu Popoola, Aminu Umar, and Ndifreke Udo in his starting line-up for the first time at the Rio games. He had also chosen to rest goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel, naming Daniel Akpeyi to take his place between the sticks.
At the end of the first half, the score line stayed at 1-0 with the Nigerians having done little to test Colombia’s goalkeeper, Christian Bonilla. Coach Siasia made three changes in the second half, introducing Imho Ezekiel, Usman Muhammed, and Stanley Amuzie but none of them had any significant impact on the match.
The Nigerians had a chance to equalise when Captain Mikel Obi put a pass across to Oghenekaro Etebo, but the striker could only hit wide away from goal. Minutes later, the Colombians were awarded a penalty when Harold Preciado was brought down inside the 18-yard box by Daniel Akpeyi, the Nigerian goal keeper. Diego Pabon’s well-taken penalty was enough to extend the Colombians’ lead to 2-0.
There was more bad news for the Nigerians in the 82nd minute, when Nigeria’s leading goal scorer at the Games Oghenekaro Etebo – who scored 4 goals against Japan – was carried off on a stretcher after sustaining an injury. Unfortunately, the Nigerians had exhausted their number of substitutes and had to play with 10 men for the last eight minutes of the match.