Nigeria fulfilled expectations with a comfortable victory over the minnows of Tahiti at the Confederations Cup, but the 6-1 scoreline belied a less than faultless display from the victors and an admirable performance from the defeated pacific islanders. Nnmadi Oduamadi took advantage of the weak standard of opposition to get a hat-trick, while Uwa Echiejile added a further two courtesy of deflections, There was further misfortune with another strike coming courtesy of an own goal from Jonathan Tehau.
Having one 2-0 up inside 10 minutes the double-figure mauling that many feared appeared on the cards, but Nigeria failed to make the most of their continual chances. And Tahiti enjoyed a moment to savor as they fulfilled one of their modest ambitions for the tournament when Jonathan Tehau scored at the right end early in the second half to temporarily make the scoreline a highly respectable 3-1.
The amateur status of all-but one of the Tahitian players was in evidence on occasions and one still fears for them, particularly when they come up against World and European champions Spain. But they have more reason to feel positive about their opening performance than Nigeria. The performance of the African champions was indicative of a side that had their buildup hampered by withdrawals and a pay dispute that threatened their participation.
Belying their minnow status, the men from the French Polynesian island began encouragingly at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. Indeed it was Tahiti that had the first shot on goal when Vincent Simon cut in from the left but shot tamely straight at Vincent Enyeama.
But they were soon to come crashing down to earth with an incredibly unfortunate bump after five minutes. Their first bit of bad luck came as the referee deflected the ball to Echiejile 20 yards out and then the full-back’s shot incredibly took two deflections to take it past the bewildered Xavier Samin. Tahiti appeared set to get crudely exposed when a second goal arrived just a few minutes later. A poor give away by Tahiti in the midfield allowed Ahmed Musa to find Oduamadi, who stylishly took the ball past a feeble challenge before finishing coolly into the net to double his side’s lead.
In many ways Tahiti’s greatest problems were coming from their admirable positivity to not just sit back and, furthermore, to try and showcase what ability they had on the ball. That presented Nigeria with plenty of openings that a side on their game would undoubtedly have taken. Musa was the first culprit as he tried to go around the goalkeeper and allowed a defender to get back and make a vital block.
But after Musa missed yet another chance one-on-one with the goalkeeper, they were gifted a chance that was nigh-on impossible to miss. Samin had a moment to forget as he spilled a cross straight at Oduamadi allowing the Milan-owned striker to get his second goal of the contest.
But it was far from an impressive performance by Stephen Keshi’s side, even bearing in mind their delayed lengthy trip over to Brazil. Their lack of professionalism in front of goal was shown up two further times before half-time as both Anthony Ujah and Musa again were guilty of failing to make the most of one-on-one chances and went it alone rather than squaring it for an unmarked teammate. Their new-found unity that was so responsible for their African Nations Cup triumph was sorely lacking here.
There was also some slack defending at the other end. Steevy Chong Hue also made himself a hero as he got on the end of Marama Vahirua’s cross but failed to get his header on target. But nine minutes into the second half Tahiti got their reward for their worthy efforts with a moment that will live long in the memory of Jonathan Tehau and the nation of Tahiti. Vahirua, as the country’s only professional, again showed his quality with a good corner to the back post and, with Celtic’s Efe Ambrose caught out at the far post, one of the four members of the Tehau family in the squad etched his name in history with a header just inside the post.
That would be as good as it got for Tahiti, as, expectedly, the greater fitness of Nigeria’s professionals told in the final 25 minutes. Having already had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, Nigeria profited from a giveaway by Vahirua and Jonathan Tehau’s dream day was slightly dented as he diverted Oduamadi’s cross into his own net.
Further goals followed with Oduamadi completing his hat-trick as substitute Brown Ideye made the right decision this time to square the ball for his striker to tap home. With 10 minutes remaining, Samin’s initial save was not enough to prevent a sixth goal when Echiejile’s follow-up effort deflected into the net.
Nigeria came together in a circle at the end of the match, but they will have to show far more teamwork on the pitch in their next two matches against Uruguay and then Spain if they are to go further in this competition.