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Nigeria settles for Olympic silver without star

Nigeria settles for Olympic silver without star

More than any player, it was Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi who guided Nigeria into Saturday's Olympic men's football final against Argentina.
But despite scoring two goals in a 4-1 semifinal win over Belgium, Ogbuke Obasi never left the bench Saturday because of a shin injury, probably costing Nigeria its only realistic chance for gold in the Beijing Games.
Its only other medals are both bronze, and both in track and field.
Despite out-shooting Argentina and having the better scoring chances, the South Americans successfully defended their Olympic title with a 1-0 victory in the first football game ever played before 89,000 in the Bird's Nest.
"We had a lot of chances on goal, but we didn't finish," Nigeria coach Samson Siasia said. "You have to score goals to win gold medals."
Samson said Ogbuke Obasi probably picked up the injury in the semifinals, which kept him out of practice for two days and out of the final.
Brazil took bronze in the men's football tournament, beating Belgium 3-0 Friday in Shanghai.
Angel Di Maria, taking a perfectly timed ball from Lionel Messi, broke down the left side and lobbed a perfect shot in the 58th minute over the head of Nigeria goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin.
Argentina's victory avenged Nigeria's 3-2 win in the 1996 Olympic final. That Nigerian team produced players like Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha and Celestine Babayaro, who went on to play with top European teams.
Promise Isaac and Victor Obinna had Nigeria's best chances Saturday. In the first half, Isaac just missed the ball in front of the goal off a cross from Peter Odemwingie. Obinna had a chance to equalize in the 63rd, but shot straight at Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
"We played well. I'm satisfied with this," said Samson, who acknowledged his flashy forward's absence weakened the team.
"That guy can do some magic, create something out of nothing," Samson said. "It's just disappointing he didn't play."
Nigeria pressed in the final 15 minutes with Argentina and Messi fading in the searing heat. The game-time temperature was 32 degrees C (90 degrees F), but much hotter on the field. Play was stopped in both halves for two-minute water breaks, a move seldom seen in football.
"If there was more time, I think we would have scored," defender Chibuzor Okonkwo said. "With 10 minutes to go, we were pushing them and adding the pressure. I think in the heat we were stronger."
Asked to compare this Nigerian team to the 1996 edition, Samson was clear.
"We are younger this time, but the '96 team actually won gold so you'd say they are a better team," Samson said. "After gold, I think silver is not bad. Look at Brazil, they came third."


Updated : 2021-05-18 23:17 GMT+08:00