Nnamdi Oduamadi claimed a hat-trick as Nigeria shook off the jet lag to thrash minnows Tahiti 6-1 in their opening Confederations Cup game in Belo Horizonte on Monday.
The African champions only arrived in Brazil 36 hours before the game after a row over bonus payments, but they could even afford some wasteful finishing as they leapfrogged world champions Spain to the top of Group B.
It was a predictably chastening experience for Tahiti, ranked 138th in the world, but they were nonetheless able to celebrate when Jonathan Tehau headed in their first ever goal at a high-profile international event.
Tehau’s goal, early in the second half, trimmed Nigeria’s lead to 3-1 after a deflected Uwa Echiejile shot and a pair of goals from Oduamadi had put Nigeria in command.
However, the south Pacific islanders’ hopes of a famous comeback were dashed as Tehau put through his own goal before Oduamadi and Echiejile added further goals to give Stephen Keshi’s men a spring in their step ahead of Thursday’s crucial showdown with Uruguay.
“It was a little bit difficult to up our game,” said Nigeria coach Keshi. When you know you’re playing against, with all due respect, the Tahiti team, you think everything’s easy. They showed us that they can play football. Congratulations to them.”
There were only 20,187 people in attendance at the newly renovated Estadio Mineirao but they were vocal in their support of Tahiti, who were granted a standing ovation at the end of the game.
“I’m very proud of the team, who fought to the end,” Marama Vahirua, Tahiti’s only professional player, told Brazilian television. We came here with the goal of winning the hearts of the fans. The Brazilian public has adopted us and it makes us very happy.”AFP