NIGERIA’S ‘Dream Team’ defied the odds Saturday night to see off Denmark in a straight forward 2-0 quarter-final victory at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
Captain, John Obi Mikel and Aminu Umar got the goals, either side of half-time, to send Nigeria to Sao Paulo for a meeting with Germany on Wednesday.
After both sides were defeated in their respective final group games, each had a point to prove heading into the last eight clash. Nigeria were by far the most forward-thinking and took the initiative in the opening half, swiftly moving the ball to either flank to try and get in behind a sturdy Danish defense.
Imoh Ezekiel shone brightest for the Super Eagles, a constant thorn in the side of the Danes. Indeed the No9 almost produced a goal in the opening minutes, his blocked shot falling to Sadiq Umar, who could only find Denmark’s goal- keeper Jeppe Hojbjerg.
The Danes responded, with Casper Nielsen bringing the ball down superbly on his chest, before hitting an effort at goal which touched the crossbar on its way over.
At the end of the opening period, the Nigerians made their pace tell. Ezekiel burst down the left-hand side and into the Danish penalty area, before squaring across to Mikel, who had the simplest of tasks to side foot home.
Into the second half, Ezekiel once again proved himself a nuisance to Niels Frederiksen’s side, twisting and turning his way past several Denmark challenges on the left-hand side of the Danish penalty area before opening his body and firing a shot over the crossbar.
Samson Siasia’s team would have their second goal though, after Mikel turned provider. The Chelsea midfielder curled a devilish corner into the penalty area from the Nigeria left, and Aminu Umar rose to expertly guide the ball past Hojbjerg.
Despite a late chance for substitute Oluwafemi Ajayi, Nigeria failed to add to their lead, but progressed serenely through to the semi-finals. The Danes head home without a medal, unable to match or better the 1960 side that claimed silver in Italy.
The Nigerians will face Germany in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, which will be the first time the pair will met in an Olympic football tournament.