A few days ago, it looked like the Nigerians wouldn’t even make it to Brazil in time for their first game against Japan. The Nigerian Federation had failed to make a payment on their flight to Brazil, putting their first game just 36 hours away in doubt. Finally, on game day, Delta Airlines stepped up and flew the team down for free after learning of the situation.
After finally arriving just six hours before kickoff, the Nigerians went on to win in a 5-4 thriller thanks to four goals from Oghenekaro Etebo.
The team then faced Sweden in their second game, but again came away with the victory, winning 1-0. Amazingly, the team that almost missed the tournament has now already qualified for the quarterfinals, getting a maximum 6 points from 3 games.
William Ekong, a center back on the team, told reporters that “We have the mentality, this fighting spirit…that first game, it wasn’t easy at all. It couldn’t have been any harder preparation for us, really. And I think it was real mental strength and a bit of God’s work for us to win that game.”
Fighting spirit is not the only thing the Nigerian’s possess though, as they have quickly showed themselves as one of the most athletic and talented teams in the tournament. Etebo, John Obi Mikel and forward Umar Sadiq have been among the best players in these Olympic games.
Though they have already qualified for the knockout stage, the team’s biggest test will perhaps come tomorrow as the squad takes on powerhouse Colombia. The Nigerians remain confident however, having already overcome so much adversity.
When asked their thoughts toward medaling, Ekong stated “I think the potential is there, but I don’t want to put any pressure on us. But the signs are there. If you believe, why not?”