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Rio 2016: Nigeria off to winning start, South Africa hold hosts Brazil
The men’s football tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro got underway today with all 16 teams in action. For Africa’s three representatives, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa, the first round of matches ended with three different results: defending African U-23 champions Nigeria were 5-4 winners over Japan, South Africa held hosts Brazil to a 0-0 draw, while Algeria fell 3-2 to Honduras.
Nigeria off to flying start
Nigeria’s Dream Team were Africa’s big winners on the day as they got their Olympic campaign off to a flying start with a 5-4 win over Japan thanks to a massive four-goal performance from striker Etebo Oghenekaro. Despite having arrived in Brazil just hours before the match kicked-off, it took the African Under-23 champions just 6 minutes to open the scoring when AS Roma’s Sadiq Umar pounced on a rebound from the Japanese keeper. Japan equalized three minutes later from the penalty spot but Etebo gave Nigeria the lead again just a minute later after being set-up by Shehu Abdullahi. However, the lead was again short-lived as Japan drew level one minute later.
The score remained 2-2 until just before half-time when the Japanese defense gifted Etebo a freebie with a poor clearance. The second half saw Etebo add two more goals to his tally with a 51st minute penalty and a 66th minute shot from outside the box into an empty net, catching Japan’s goalkeeper off his line. Japan managed to pull two back in the last 20 minutes, including an injury time goal, but was ultimately unable to complete the comeback. Nigeria will face Sweden on Sunday knowing that a win will put them through to the quarter-finals.
South Africa hold hosts Brazil
Earlier in the day, South Africa held hosts Brazil and their star forward Neymar to a 0-0 draw at Brasília’s Estádio Nacional. Despite Brazil’s fielding a star-studded line-up that also featured the likes of Rafinha, Gabriel Barbosa and Marquinhos, South Africa were able to keep the hosts out while still creating some opportunities of their own, putting five shots on target and coming close to score on a number of occasions. While Brazil dominated possession, the South Africans put a good account for themselves, with winger Keagan Dolly putting in an excellent performance for the Amaglug-glug.
Algeria fall to Honduras
Africa’s third representative, Algeria, will hope to forget all about today’s match, losing 3-2 to Honduras in large part due to two horrendous errors from goalkeeper Farid Chaâl. The MC Alger net-minder misjudged a looping header in the first half, and then followed it up by dropping a routine catch in the second half to essentially hand the Honduras the three points, despite second half goals from Baghdad Bounedjah and Sofiane Bendebka. Things only get tougher for the Desert Foxes from here as they take on Argentina on Sunday and Portugal on Wednesday.