Belo Horizonte – Nigeria scoring six goals in its first Confederations Cup match suggested that the impact from chaotic preparations had been minimal.
With a 6-1 victory over Tahiti yesterday, the African champions took control of Group B.
At times the Nigerians were ruthless, but they were also profligate in front of goal against a team making its debut at an international tournament.
Nigeria nearly didn’t make it to Brazil after threatening to go on strike last week in a row over bonuses.
Fifa had to scramble to find flights to get Nigeria to Belo Horizonte in time to play in the eight-nation warm-up tournament for the 2014 World Cup.
Given that they arrived with barely 36 hours until kickoff, the players were fortunate to be playing a team sitting 107 places below them in the Fifa rankings at 138.
“Due to the stuff we had delayed flights,” said Nnamdi Oduamadi, who scored a hat trick and wouldn’t discuss the strike-threat.
“This victory will give us a big morale (boost). We are topping the group now. We just have to do everything the coach says and let’s see what happens on the pitch.”
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama said Sunday the players would resume their battle over bonuses with the Nigerian Football Federation after the tournament, but the camp appeared to be more harmonious after yesterday’s rout.
“It has been settled,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. “We don’t have anything holding us back any more. All we need to do is play football now.”
And to ensure his players’ aren’t as wasteful in the remaining group games against Uruguay and Spain when there will be no margin for error.
Keshi rued the fact his team didn’t score even more goals against Tahiti, and allowed the minnows from a tiny Pacific Ocean island to find the net from a corner.
“Yes we lost a lot of chances today but it’s one of those things that happen in football,” Keshi said. “So we will go back and try to make it right.”
At several times, Nigeria players seemed to be clean through on goal, only to waste their chances while looking too casual.
“I was a little bit worried. I was worried because we had clear chances, 100% chances and you need to bury the goals,” Keshi said.
“The game in total wasn’t bad,” he added. “I think the Tahitians played a good game considering their level of game.”
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