Nigeria secured the bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics men's football tournament on Saturday, beating Honduras 3-2.
Umar Sadiq gave the Nigerians the lead late in the first half, and Aminu Umar doubled their lead shortly after the break. Sadiq added a third goal after 56 minutes, and while Anthony Lozano managed to pull one back for Honduras and Marcelo Pereira added a second goal just before full-time, the Dream Team hung on for the win.
Imoh Ezekiel started up front for the Nigerians, with Sadiq sliding in behind him, while Alberth Elis was in charge of the creative impulses for Honduras.
The Nigerians started the match in fine form, pressing high up the pitch in search of an opener, and their efforts were nearly rewarded after seven minutes. Umar found some space inside the box and fired a hard shot on goal, smashing the ball off the crossbar.
Umar put Luis Lopez to work minutes later, and Allans Vargas tested the reflexes of Nigerian goalkeeper Daniel Emmanuel. Honduras gained a reputation for frustrating opponents around the box during the early stages of the tournament, but Nigeria had few problems finding openings in the opening stages.
Okechukwu Azubuike ran into the first booking of the match after just 16 minutes, and Umar went close again shortly after, missing the goal by inches. Ezekiel also missed a golden opportunity after a great lob put him through on goal, to the astonishment of Sports Radio BrilaFM:
|26'| What a miss! Ezekiel missed a clear chance to give Nigeria the lead after an inch perfect lob. #HON 0-0 #NGR #footballliveng #Rio2016— Sports Radio BrilaFM (@889BrilaFM) August 20, 2016
Emmanuel picked up a knock after rushing off his line to clear a dangerous ball from Honduras over the top, but after some brief treatment, he was able to continue. Elis put him to work almost immediately after, and the stopper showed no signs of distress.
Sadiq opened the score after 34 minutes, pushing the ball beyond the grasp of Lopez after a fine assists from Mikel John Obi, one of the veterans on the team. USWNT star Sydney Leroux Dwyer wasn't impressed with the team's celebrations, however:
The setback was a nightmare scenario for Honduras, a team built to defend a lead and play on the counter. The side was now forced to come out of their shell and dictate play themselves, and they barely managed to put together solid passing movements before half-time.
Mikel almost released Umar with a clever pass just before the break, as the Dream Team easily preserved their lead and were 45 minutes away from bronze.
The Dream Team went looking for a second goal early after the break, with both Ezekiel and Mikel putting Lopez to work. Just four minutes into the half, Umar converted after a lovely attack, firing home a rebound.
Sugar Clyne of Sports radio BrilaFM was sure the bronze medal was in the bag:
Lozano played Oscar Salas into the box, but the Honduras midfielder couldn't take advantage, as Nigeria's defence closed him down in time.
But the Dream Team was unleashed at this point, and Sadiq scored his second goal of the afternoon after 56 minutes to all but end the contest. Mikel once again provided the assist.
Desperation mode now set in for Honduras, who made several substitutions in an attempt to change things up. But Nigeria were in full control, and both Usman Muhammed and Stanley Amuzie came close to adding to the lead.
Sadiq also had a shot saved before Lozano pulled one back for Honduras with a powerful header, restoring some hope. But Nigeria remained by far the better team, and Sadiq came close to restoring the three-goal gap after 73 minutes.
The Dream Team took control of the ball after that and stopped pressing forward with numbers, opting to take all of the momentum out of the contest. They were shocked when Pereira scored from a set piece with another header just minutes before the final whistle, however, setting up a tense finale.
Honduras' late push didn't lead to any chances, however, and Nigeria held on for the win.
Brazil and Germany will contest the final later on Saturday.