The Dream Team VI began their quest for gold as they managed to overcome ‘stubborn’ Japan in their opening Group B fixture of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
It was glaring that the U-23 team had the potentials of going all the way to make history and the future of the Super Eagles is in the pipeline.
Here are the five things we learnt from the Nigeria, Japan match
1. Mikel played a deeper role upfront: The captain was fielded in an unusual role upfront playing behind Oghenekaro Etebo while Azubike played in Mikel’s natural holding midfield position.
However, the formation changed as the Chelsea midfielder played in central midfield to allow Sadiq Umar torment the Japanese defense when Nigeria was on the attack.
2. Good passing game: The Dream Team VI had good string of passes in the midfield which made their opponent ware out withand Mikel, Azubike, Ezekiel, Sadiq and Amuzie getting all involved in the class act.
After a shaky first half, the U-23 totally dominated proceedings in the midfield which led to the goals scored in the second half and got the win.
3. Strength and skill: What really gave Samson Siasia’s boys the cutting edge was their skillful abilities, where the whole line of the midfield and attack kept possession all through the game.
However, the U-23 team needed to physically use their strength to out-muscle their opponents such that Japan were matched with power and pace.
4. Slippery defense: In as much as the Dream Team were deadly in the attack, the defense went to sleep as the Japanese side continued to navigate the Nigerian defense. They were caught on the counter most of the time; Sometimes Ekong and Muhammed lacked understanding inter-changing positions.
Too many mistakes were made in the back line and it cost Nigeria dearly as the goals conceded were as a result of faulty string of passes in the back-line.
5. Leadership: The Siasia-led squad had a feel of leadership on and off the field of play as Mikel humbly gave the penalty kick to Etebo and also handing over the captain’s arm band to Azubuike when he was substituted late-on.
As seen on the touch line, there was unity in the team as Siasia and his backroom staff were in control of the team despite the troubles experienced before getting to Brazil.
It should be worthy of note that the Nigerian team landed in Manaus, Brazil hours before of their opener against Japan and fatigue began to set-in in the last 15 minutes of the match but the team managed to scrape a 5-4 win.