By Nurudeen Obalola:
Nigeria qualified for the quarter-finals of the Rio 2016 men’s football event after a 1-0 victory over Sweden in Manaus on Sunday night.
Impressive Roma youngster Umar Sadiq got the only goal of the match in the 39th minute of a dominant Nigerian performance.
The win took the Olympic Eagles’ points haul to six in two matches following Friday’s 5-4 win over Japan, while Sweden are stuck on the one point they picked from their opening day 2-2 draw with Colombia.
The Nigerians were absolutely in control in the first half, having 62 per cent of the possession, and should have gone into the break more than one goal up.
Starting with the same line-up as the one against Japan, the Olympic Eagles got off to a bright start, pinning the Swedes back in their own half.
Nigeria showed their intent after only seven minutes but a swift break ended with Umar Sadiq just offside when through on goal.
Two minutes later Sadiq was again involved as he shot sttaight at the Sweden keeper Andreas Linde after a great ball over the top set him up in the Sweden box. The rebound fell to Oghenekaro Etebo, but the scorer of four goals against Japan could not finish it off, and neither could Mikel Obi.
The nifty Imoh Ezekiel, Etebor, Sadiq and Mikel – revelling in an advanced role – were running the Swedes ragged and creating chance after chance.
But the next chance fell to Sweden as the Nigerian defence was caught out by a long ball. Mikael Ishak however fired wide from a good position.
Etebo then shot straight at the keeper after Mikel and Ezekiel combined to set him up. Moments later Etebo forced the keeper into a fine save, before the Portugal-based star headed over from 12 yards.
Sadiq finally got the reward the Nigerian play deserved when he glanced in a superb cross from Stanley Amuzie in the 39th minute.
Nigeria had the better chances early in the second half too, Mikel forcing Linde into a big save in the 48th minute, and Etebo’s curling drive getting the same treatment four minutes later.
Ezekiel then turned his marker smartly in the Sweden ’18’ before hitting the side netting.
A tired looking Mikel was taken off in the 80th minute for Kingsley Madu as Sweden tried to fight their way back into the game.
The Europeans created their best chances late on, forcing Sincere Seth into two desperate clearances as Nigeria hung on.
18 Emmanuel DANIEL
2 Muenfuh SINCERE
4 Abdullahi SHEHU
6 William EKONG
8 Oghenekaro ETEBO
9 Imoh EZEKIEL
10 John Obi MIKEL
13 Sadiq UMAR
14 Okechukwu AZUBUIKE
16 Stanley AMUZIE
17 Usman MUHAMMED
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