Sports

Looking Back at Nigeria’s Bronze Finish at the Olympics

Nigeria dominated the first hour of their 2016 Olympics men’s soccer tournament bronze medal match against Honduras to run out a three-goal lead and then had just enough left in the tank to hold off a fierce Honduras fightback in the last 20 minutes to win the match 3-2 and capture Olympics bronze.

The match got off to an exciting start, with much of the first half played at high pace and with great intensity from both teams. Honduras were able to get chances on the counter, but their reliance on the pace of Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto on the counter attack without real support through the middle was easy for Nigeria to shield against, despite the success Honduras had enjoyed with that tactic earlier.

The difference in this match was that while Honduras seemed to lack for a plan B in attack, Nigeria came up with a new approach every time Honduras seemed to figure out what was coming at them. Their opening goal in the first half came from a clever far-post run from Sadiq Umar, who delayed starting his run just long enough that Honduras’ defenders went to the near post to cover the run in from John Obi Mikel, who saw Umar’s run and slipped him in perfectly.

Their second came off a lovely breakaway just after halftime, with Honduras keeper Luis Lopez making an excellent save, but he could only push the shot away. The rebound fell to Aminu Umar, who pushed his shot away from Lopez to double Nigeria’s lead just a few moments into the second half. Their third goal, scored just before the hour mark, was yet another different type of goal, this time basically just overwhelming Honduras’ back line with numbers before Mikel again set up Sadiq Umar to put the game away.

Honduras wouldn’t go down quietly — halftime substitute striker Anthony Lozano scored a lovely 70th minute goal to get his country on the board — but Nigeria dominated possession. Even as Honduras tried to claw their way back, Nigeria screened their back line well to keep Honduras at bay. Honduras pulled a second goal back in the waning minutes but couldn’t come up with enough to find an equalizer before the final whistle.

The final score means that Nigeria take home the bronze medal, giving them their third Olympic men’s soccer medal in their history after winning gold in 1996 and silver in 2008. Considering everything they had to get through before the tournament even began — travel difficulties that just barely got them to Brazil the day the tournament started and several injuries to crucial players in the squad — it’s an impressive result. Honduras should be proud of what they accomplished to get this far themselves, though they would certainly much rather be celebrating their first-ever Olympics medal in soccer. Still, they played a good match — Nigeria were just better.

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