Friday, March 25, 2016 10:05 am
By Taiwo Adelu
The interim head coach of the Nigeria U-23 team, Fatai Amoo has said the display of his boys against host Brazil has justified their emergence as the African champions, and shown that they really can win gold at the Olympics in Rio come August this year.
Speaking after the Dream Team defeated Brazil by a lone goal, Coach Amoo admitted that his boys struggled to contain the hosts in the first half as they launched their attack from the left wing, but the team were able to redress that in the second half.
“The first half was very difficult for us, but then it is expected, having in mind that we scored an early goal and as such it was expected they would come all out against us to get the equalizer, but I must give my boys a lot of credit for holding their own.
“The boys did a great job if you recall that 80 percent of the boys we brought here were just meeting one another for the first time, and we needed to see all of them in match situation. I’m happy we have seen them and this is hopiing that as we play more friendlies, we would discover more players that will compete for jerseys before the Olympics proper.
“No doubt, our goalkeeper (Emmanuel Daniel) kept us in the game with a number of great saves before he was substituted. Even the substitute Yusuf Mohammed also did his bit. All in all, some players like Ezekiel Imoh and Sodiq Popoola were outstanding and I am happy for the team, ” Amoo said a statement from the Media Officer of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Ademola Olajire early on Friday.
Brazil, who are yet to win Olympics football gold, created the better chances, but they either failed to put them away or goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel and his defence were resolute in keeping them out.
Ubong Ekpai fired the match winner for Nigeria off a rebound after just four minutes, when Imoh, who was a thorn in the flesh of the Brazilians went past his marker and his resultant pull out saw Popoola hitting a shot that rebounded for Ekpai to score.
Thereafter, Brazil threw everything at Nigeria, coming close in the 19th minute through Felipe Anderson and on 27 minutes, when Alisson’s angled header crashed against the crossbar.
Turkey-based Nigeria defender Musa Mohammed was booked in the 16th minute, for stamping on a Brazilian midfielder. For the second half, Brazil made three changes, throwing in Wallace, Clayton and Wendell.
Clayton threatened the Nigerian goal just two minutes after his introduction, but goalkeeper Daniel was alive to his responsibilities. Malcolm and Andreas Pereira of Manchester United were also brought on but they just could not get past the Nigeria backline.
Nigeria made four changes, which saw Victor Osimhen come in for Taiwo Awoniyi, Junior Ajayi for Ekpai, Amaefule Chizoba for Keigo and Sincere Seth for Ovbokha.