Goals by captain John Mikel Obi and Aminu Umar steered African champions Nigeria past Denmark in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 quarter finals in Salvador on Saturday.
The immediate reward for the 1996 champions is a potentially –explosive semi final clash with Germany, conquerors of Portugal, at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
It was never going to be an easy stroll and Coach Samson Siasia’s wards took the game by the scruff from the beginning, with Imoh Ezekiel’s lively run down the right in the first minute ending with a feeble shot by midfielder Usman Mohammed. Denmark’s Casper Nielsen came close to embarrassing goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel in the 12th minute, but his volley sailed over.
From then on, it was Nigeria, and it was in no way against the run of play when Mikel Obi swept home with his left on the quarter hour after another brilliant run by Ezekiel. The Belgium –based forward was causing the Danes plenty of problems and came close to scoring three minutes later, before two excellent reaction saves by Daniel preserved Nigeria’s lead. Seven minutes before recess, defender Stanley Amuzie could have doubled Nigeria’s lead as his shot cannoned off a defender.
Another brilliant Daniel save in the 45th minute ensured Nigeria went into the break still ahead.
In the 56th minute, Daniel had to come up with another huge save, as everyone else missed from a teasing free –kick. Three minutes later, Nigeria doubled their lead, Aminu Umar heading into the net from a Mikel Obi corner.
In the 62nd minute, it would have been 3-0, but an angled header by Imoh Ezekiel from another Mikel Obi corner missed narrowly.
The Nigerians kept up the pressure and duly won the day to set up a semi finals with the Germans, but assistant captain Azubuike Okechukwu will miss that game after bagging his second yellow card of the tournament with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Germany dismantled Portugal 4-0 in the first quarter final.