Midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo hit four goals as the Nigeria U23 team shrugged off jet lag to take three points off Japan in a 5-4 win in their opening match of the men’s football tournament of this year’s Olympics.
Super Eagles’ star Etebo was awesome in an entertaining duel inside the Amazonia Arena in Manaus, putting his energy and perseverance to good use to steer the Nigeria squad to top of the table after Sweden and Colombia tied 2-2 in the other match of the group.
Italy –based Sadiq Umar put Nigeria in front after only five minutes off good work from Imoh Ezekiel, but the Japanese leveled within three minutes as Shinzo Koroki made no mistake from the penalty spot after Stanley Amuzie was judged to have fouled in the box.
The 1996 champions took the lead again a minute later, Etebo riffling home after good chest control of a long ball from the right by fellow Super Eagle Abdullahi Shehu. But straight from the re-start, the Japanese leveled as Takumi Minamino slipped the ball under goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel.
Eight minutes later, a sizzling Stanley Amuzie shot was pushed out by Japanese goalkeeper Kushibiki, but three minutes before half time, Etebo shot Nigeria ahead again by showing great determination to follow up good work from Sadiq Umar.
Coach Samson Siasia, who led the last Nigeria team at the men’s football tournament of the Olympics to silver (Beijing 2008), further gingered his boys at half time and only six minutes in, Etebo scored his third from the penalty spot after the tenacious Umar was brought down in the box.
On the hour mark, captain Mikel Obi saw his watched his left footed sail narrowly over the bar, but six minutes later, Obi’s tenacity paid off as his centre was pushed out by the Japanese goalkeeper for Etebo to rocket in Nigeria’s fifth.
The Asian champions scored off a fast break in the 70th through Takuma Asano and added another in added time through Musashi Suzuki, but it was the African champions who ultimately smiled home with the three points.
Nigeria next play European champions. Sweden on Sunday night, also at the Amazonia Arena in Manaus.