Nigeria finally made it to the Rio 2016 Olympics medal table on Saturday evening after Dream Team VI defeated Honduras 3-2 to claim bronze in the male football event, with Mikel Obi assisting all the goals.
Played at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, the game started in frenetic fashion and Aminu Umar nearly earned Nigeria the lead in the sixth minute after receiving a ball in the 18-yard box , escaping his mark and unleashing a fierce low drive past Luis Lopez in goal. But the ball cannoned off the right post and again off the left before it was cleared by the Honduran defence.
Nigeria’s second chance, an inviting cross from the left flank, fell to Usman Muhammed, but his header went agonisingly wide off the bar, with Muhammed injuring his shoulder in the process.
Imoh Ezekiel was next to fluff his lines, having been set up with the goalkeeper to beat and a defender chasing him down, but he delayed long enough to allow the defender recover and force him to kick the ball wide.
Nigeria finally went ahead in the 33rd minute, seconds after a Honduran striker wasted a one-on-one chance, firing straight at Daniel. Mikel orchestrated the goal, collecting an Ezekiel pass before slaloming past two defenders and squaring to Sadiq Umar, who had the simplest of tasks by tapping into a gaping net.
Honduras unbelievably missed the opportunity to equalise with the last kick of the first half, but Romell Quioto glanced wide a sumptuously-lobbed free kick with the goal net his for the taking.
Nigeria consolidated the lead over the Central Americans early into the second half, with Mikel Obi again at the heart of it. Receiving the ball after Stanley Amuzie’s run on the left flank, Mikel skillfully created space for himself on the edge of the box and then drove in a shot that goalkeeper Lopez could not hold at once, allowing Aminu Umar to send a follow-up into the net.
The game was fast turning into the Mikel Obi Show, as the Dream Team captain picked up the ball around the centre circle in the 55th minute, dribbled past an opponent and picked out Umar with a deft pass. The AS Roma meandered his way pass two defenders and powered the ball beyond Lopez’s reach.
Honduras pulled one back in the 70th minute, substitute Anthony Lozano guiding home an inch-perfect cross after managing to evade his marker, to give his team a lifeline with his third goal of the tournament.
Luis Pinto George’s side almost closed the deficit further in the following five minutes, but some desperate defending by the Dream Team ensured the scoreline remain unchanged.
However, there was no stopping Marcelo Pereira in the 85th minute. Daniel had leapt at full stretch for an Honduran free kick, but he got no way near the ball and the defender nodded home with relative ease.
Although Honduras committed more men for the rest of the match, Dream Team held on to secure Nigeria’s first Olympic medal since 2008.