Dream Team VI suffered their first loss at the male soccer event of the Rio 2016 Olympics, losing 2-0 to Colombia at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday morning.
Coach Samson Siasia prosecuted the game with a markedly changed side, bringing in Daniel Akpeyi, Kingsley Madu, Aminu Umar, Popoola Saliu and Ndifreke Udo in place of Emmanuel Daniel, Abdullahi Shehu, Imoh Ezekiel, Stanley Amuzie and Usman Muhammed.
Colombia stunned Nigeria four minutes into the match after the Dream Team sloppily gave away possession around the centre circle, allowing a Colombian attacker to float a sumptuous cross to captain Teofilo Gutierrez, who calmly converted from close range.
It was a goal that destabilised Nigeria, as Siasia’s boys struggled to find their rhythm, and they were soon thanking goalkeeper Akpeyi for miraculously saving a point-blank header that seemed destined for the far right of the net.
But the Dream Team soon got hold of the free-flowing passing game that had served them so well in the tournament, and it wasn’t long before a neat chance was fashioned out after a lengthy spell of dominance.
A smooth passing run ended up with striker Sadiq Umar gaining possession on the right side of the opposition zone. He would square the ball to a surging Oghenekaro Etebo, but he fluffed his lines in a manner uncharacteristic of the reputation he had earned for himself thus far in the tournament.
Nigeria bossed the play more as the match wore on, Mikel Obi orchestrating most of the offensive moves with such expertise reminiscent of the player he was at the World Youth Under-20 Championship in Holland in 2005. Still, the first half ended one-nil in favour of the South Americans.
Etebo spurned another close-range chance minutes after the restart, after Mikel’s deft lob freed Aminu on the left. The Osmanlispor striker squared the ball to Etebo, but his delicate flick from a tight angle didn’t work, and the Colombians profited from the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Colombia went ahead in the 62nd minute, Dorlan Pabon blasting home a penalty after Akpeyi fouled a Colombian attacker in the six-yard box at the end of a counter-attacking play.
Siasia tried to chase the game with a double substitution in the 70th minute, sending on Usman Muhammed in place of Popoola Saliu, and Imoh Ezekiel for Aminu Umar.
Yet, it was Colombia that missed a golden chance to go three goals up in the 72nd minute when Preciado controlled a precise lobbed ball to take out Nigeria’s last standing defender but — with only Akpeyi to beat — inexplicably sent his effort wide off the far post.
The roving Stanley Amuzie was then brought on to replace Madu with 11 minutes left on the clock, but Etebo would be stretchered off three minutes later, meaning Nigeria saw out the remainder of the encounter with a man down.
The rest of the match was lacking in real attacking ability, leaving Colombia to run out match winners, booking their place in the quarter-finals behind Nigeria, as the Dream Team topped the group despite the loss.