The Dream Team VI saved Nigeria the embarrassment of having to leave the Rio 2016 Olympics without a medal after beating Honduras in their third place match to win Bronze.
Nigeria last won a medal at an Olympic Games in 2008, and this Bronze will bring the country’s overall tally to 24 medals won, with football now winning all colours of medals: GOLD in 1996, Silver in 2008, Bronze in 2016.
Two goals from Sadiq Umar and one from Aminu Umar ensured that Nigeria established an early lead that snuffed off the late onslaught by Honduras to get back in the game.
With Nigeria comfortably 3-0 up after 70 minutes, it looked like a sure bet win, but Antony Lozano’s headed goal in the 71st minute inspired a comeback. Then Marcelo Pereira headed in a 2nd in the 86th minuted and the game became nervy.
However, the late substitutions form Nigeria took away the sting from Honduras and the time wasted in the changes helped the Dream Team hold on to the win.
John Mikel Obi was pivotal again for Nigeria, troubling Honduras with his great vision, and the Nigerian captain had a hand in all three goals his side scored. Mikel went past his markers in the box to feed an unmarked Sadiq Umar to tap in, and in the second half his shot was parried out by Lopez before Aminu Umar pounced first to find the net. Mikel completed his assists after picking out Sadiq Umar who glided past his marker to score the third goal.
It is a victory that meant a lot to a team who went through so much ordeal to participate at the Olympics. The Dream Team drew worldwide sympathy after having to travel to Manaus, just six hours to their first game against Japan and still ended up winning the game by 5-4.
Interestingly a Japanese Surgeon, Dr Katsuya Takasu took pity on the plight of the team and flew to Belo Horinzonte to cheer Nigeria and to personally donate monetary rewards to the players, with each of them going to get $10,000 for winning Bronze. It could have been more if they had gotten to the final, as they would have gotten $30,000 for GOLD or $20,000 each for Silver.
Football has bailed Nigeria out from what has been a bad outing across all sports, even to the point of national kits arriving just days to the end of the Olympics.
With Tokyo 2020 looming, Nigeria will do their best to to avoid some of the contempt and ridicule the country has been subjected to participating at the Rio Olympics.