Nigeria have defeated minnows Tahiti 6-1 in the Confederations Cup in Brazil. Despite the pro-Tahiti crowd, it was never going to be easy for the amateur outfit to hold their own against the champions of Africa.
For 90 minutes on Monday, many of the people at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte became Tahiti fans. It was a visibly exciting moment for the Tahitians, who were playing in their first ever FIFA tournament.
The team made up almost entirely of amateurs – one plays in Greece's top league – qualified for the Confederations Cup after beating New Caledonia in the Oceania Football Confederation's 2012 Nation's Cup. Favorites New Zealand were eliminated in the semifinal.
Defeating Nigeria, however, would prove to be a step too far. With memories of their Africa Cup of Nations triumph earlier this year still fresh, the Super Eagles fielded the likes of John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow) and Anthony Ujah (Cologne).
Just five minutes into the match, an unlucky deflection off an Elderson shot put Nigeria ahead 1-0. Five minutes later Nnamdi Oduamadi (pictured above) scored with a powerful finish from inside the box, and he added another in the 26th minute when goalkeeper Xavier Samin fumbled a cross to the Nigerian attacker's feet.
The 3-0 lead that Nigeria took into halftime seemed, on the one hand, kind to Tahiti. The seasoned professionals had wasted opportunities and taken too much time with the ball. On the other hand, two of Tahiti's goals conceded came from unlucky or careless mistakes.
Slim hopes dashed
It was not long after halftime that a Tahitian play drew the biggest applause of the night. After earning a corner, Tahiti's Marama Vahirua sent a ball in to the far post. Steevy Chong Hue leapt over Nigeria's Efe Ambrose and sent a powerful header into the back of the net. The minnows had scored.
Unfortunately for Tahiti, an own goal in the 68th minute removed what slim hopes they might have had of getting a result. Eight minutes later, Oduamadi sealed his hat trick when he finished off a Nigeria counter-attack against the visibly tired Tahitians. Elderson grabbed a second goal in the 80th minute for good measure, and it finished a lopsided 6-1.
Nigeria's victory rounds out the final opening match of the Confederations Cup. The Super Eagles now sit atop Group B above Spain, both teams on three points. They play Uruguay next on Thursday.
For Tahiti, it doesn't get any easier. The island nation face world champions Spain next, also on Thursday.