Nigeria 6 (Echiejile 5, 80, Oduamadi 10, 26, 76, Tehau J. o.g. 68)
Tahiti 1 (Tehau J. 54)
Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. Temp. 25°C, wind 12 mph, partly sunny. Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo (Egwuekwe 74), Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Ogude, Oduamadi, Mba (Ogu 55), Ujah (Ideye 52), Musa.
Tahiti: Samin, Ludivion, Tehau J, Vallar (Faatiarau 54), Simon (Lemaire 78), Bourebare, Tehau A, Caroine, Aitamai, Vahirua (Atani 70), Chong-Hue.
Nigeria were comfortable winners against a plucky Tahiti side with Nnamdi Oduamadi plundering a hat-trick in their opening Group B encounter, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story as the Tahitians played their part in an open and attacking match. The Super Eagles were the beneficiaries of a couple of fortunate deflections in the box, but in truth, they should have scored several more.
If the Tahiti players were nervous ahead of their first competitive match on the world stage, they certainly didn’t show it in the opening few minutes and they received plenty of encouragement from the local supporters in Belo Horizonte with neutral fans vociferously supporting the minnows. However, they were brought down to earth with a bang in the fifth minute when a shot from Echiejile took a cruel double deflection and ended up in the back of their net.
Everybody loves an underdog, but Tahiti showed just why they are such underdogs at this level over the remainder of the half and Nigeria were in no mood to be generous as they raced in to a two goal lead. Striker Nnamdi Oduamadi of Varese notched up the second in only the tenth minute and fears mounted that Tahiti might be on the receiving end of a cricket score. They did weather the storm for the next quarter of an hour but their defence seemed disorganized and Nigeria continued to create good chances with alarming regularity.
In the end, the third goal was gifted to Nigeria when Tahiti goalkeeper Xavier Samin fumbled a bobbling cross from Musa and spilt the ball into the path of the advancing Oduamadi, who clinically dispatched the ball in to the empty net for his second goal of the game. Samin partly redeemed himself with a couple of fine saves before the interval and he earned loud cheers from the crowd each time he thwarted another Nigerian attack. It wasn’t exclusively one way traffic in the first half as Tahiti threw caution to the wind and pushed forward in numbers whenever they got the opportunity. They even won a corner, forced Enyeama into a couple of saves and produced a fine cross from the right that Steevy Chong-Hue couldn’t quite divert goalwards with his head.
The second half started in much the same vein with the Nigerians creating chances and Tahiti occasionally breaking. They forced another corner on one of their forays into the opposition half and then the unthinkable happened, they stunned and delighted the stadium in equal measure by actually scoring a goal! Jonathan Tehau ghosted in at the far post to head Vahirua’s corner into the Nigerian net from an acute angle and we were treated to a collective performance of their Polynesian canoeing goal celebration.
Nigeria seemed visibly rattled by the goal and their opponents grew in confidence as they realised that they were suddenly doing more than simply making up the numbers. Tahiti even had the better of the next ten minutes as the Nigerians recovered from the shock but then normal service resumed with Oduamadi thinking he had scored a hat-trick before his third goal was ruled out for offside and then the team’s fourth finally arriving in the sixty ninth minute thanks to another double deflection. Oduamadi put the ball into the six yard box and it ended up rolling into the net off the leg of Tahiti‘s goalscoring hero Jonathan Tehau.
Oduamadi did finally get his third on the break a few minutes later when he got ahead of the defence and on to the end of a low cross from Ideye on the right flank. The greater match fitness of the professional Nigerian squad was telling in the final stages against their mostly amateur opponents and they notched up their sixth a few minutes later when Echiejile pounced on a loose ball that had been pinging around in the box and buried it for his second of the game.
Nigeria will rue some wasteful finishing, especially if they end up going out of the competition on goal difference after their final group matches against Uruguay and Spain, but the evening will be remembered for Tahiti‘s historic goal and their spirited attacking performance that made this one of the more entertaining games of the 2013 Confederations cup so far.