The Nigeria U-23 team – the Dream Team VI, are into a third semi-final in 20 years after they defeated Denmark courtesy of a Mikel Obi goal, scored in the 15th minute of the first half. Mikel also provided the assist for the second goal for Osmalinspor’s Aminu Umar.
The Nigerian team, shorn of four-goal hero, Oghenekaro Etebo started like a house on fire and could have gone ahead in the first minute but Usman Mohammed’s shot was easily gathered. That set the tone for the first 20 minutes as Imoh Ezekiel, who started on the right flank was constantly dangerous.
But within that Nigerian pressure, Kasper Nielsen almost caught Sunday Daniel out with a measured volley on 11 minutes. The ball went out off the cross bar.
In their next attacking move, Ezekiel turned on the burners and went past Desler Puggaard before laying the ball into the path of Mikel, who calmly side-footed past Jeppe Hojbjerg for his first goal in the tournament.
Ezekiel should have doubled Nigeria’s lead four minutes when he again bamboozled Puggaard but the ball took a bubble before his shot went over the bar even though Sadiq Umar was perfectly positioned to have scored.
After this salvo, it seemed the Nigerians took their foot off the pedal and No.12 could have equalized on 27 minutes but Daniel made a brilliant reaction save.
Samson Siasia would have been worried with the number of corner kicks conceded by his defenders in the first half.
Usman Mohammed was shown a yellow card in the 31st minute for consistent fouling and Seth Sincere had his name taken in the 44th for a clumsy tackle.
Nigeria started much better, pressing the Danes into their half but the game was finally poised. The Dream team were fortunate to still be ahead in the 55th minute when Daniel had to save unconventionally with his feet direct from a Jacob Bruun Larsen.
Nigeria took the warning and pushed forward and left back, Stanley Amuzie robbed Lasse Vibe on the edge of the box, switched to his right foot and let fly a rasping shot that was parried for a corner kick.
The ball did not seem on target but Umar’s header from the resultant corner kick was definitely on target. Mikel’s in-swinging cross was glanced in by the turkey-based forward, who replaced Etebo in the starting XI.
Mikel picked up an unnecessary yellow card for mouthing off to the referee, which puts pressure on the Nigerian captain for the rest of the tournament. Siasia’s boys were now in confident mood as they sat back and waited for their opponents, who had scored just the one goal in the group stage. But this team had triumphed 6-2 in the Suwon tournament in July.
Okechukwu Azubuike picked up a yellow card for an unnecessary hand ball in teh 79th minute which effectively rules him out of the semi-final. The Nigerian defence switched off in the 86th minute and Daniel made a hash of gathering the ball but the danger was effectively cleared.
Siasia sent on Oluwafemi Ajayi and Ndifreke Udo for Sadiq Umar and Azubuike respectively. On the dot of full time, Ezekiel was withdrawn for Popoola Saliu as Siasia wound down the clock.
Nigeria will now face Germany in the semi-final to be played at the Corinthians Arena on August 17. Germany beat Portugal 4-0 with goals from Serge Gnabry, Matthias Ginter, Davie Selke, and Philipp Max.