The Dream Team VI of Nigeria got their Olympic opener to a flying start with a goals fest defeating Japan 5-4 in a thrilling Group B encounter at the Arena da Amazonian stadium in Manaus.
The Nigerian U-23 side started brightly with attacking midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo grabbing a double brace in a boisterous 90+ minutes encounter. Though it was the Samurai Blue seizing the initiative as early as the 4th minute when Hiroki Fujiharu hooked a cross into the far post and Ryota Ohshima did well to power a volley which was deflected for a deflecting corner.
By the 6th minute, Roma's Sadiq Umar was rightly positioned in the Japanese box to slot in from a rebound from Imoh Ezekiel's shot, to open the floodgates. Umar was a constant threat to the Japanese backline throughout the encounter.
Despite shoddy travel plans and preparations which led to the team arriving Brazil barely five hours to thier match, the sheer determination Samson Siasia's team showed was second to none. They played with agility and tenancity but was often found wanting anytime Japan attacked.
The Blue Samurai responded immediately with a goal of their own after Stanley Amuzie had fouled Shoya Nakajima who was a constant threat to the Nigerian defence, however, Shinko converted with a well-taken penalty as he sent Daniel to the wrong side.
Nigeria raced into the lead again in the 10th minute as Oghenekaro began his roadshow when he chested down a long cross from the right flank and sent a half volley into the Japanese goalmouth.
Once again, the Japanese responded with a goal of their own via Takumi Minamino who had been left with just the Nigerian goalie to beat after some good work from a Japanese attack.
Etebo scored his secondgoal three minutes to the end of the first-half from a wonderful assist from Sadiq Umar when he dispatched the ball past Japan's stopper at the second time of asking.
At the restart of the game, Nigeria took control of the game once more and posed a serious threat every time they ventured forward. Etebo got his hat-trick from the spot following a foul on Sadiq Umar but by the 66th minute Etebo put the match beyond the reach of the opposition when he latched onto a shoddy play from the Japanese to find the back of the net from 20 yards, to make it his fourth of the night.
The Samurai Blue then mounted a serious comeback spearheaded by second half substitute Takuma Asano, a summer acquisition by Arsenal when he scored with an exquisite back-heel. The deficit was reduced to 5-4 with little time for the Japanese to complete their fightback.
Many roared to the sound of the whistle as the official ended the game much to the delight of the tiring Nigerian side who held thier nerve to fight off a Japanese resurgence.
Samson Siasia will definitely be concerned about the state of his defence and will be hoping to see an improvement when they face Sweden next on Sunday. Meanwhile, Japan's next game will be against Colombia.