Victor Obina celebrates a goal against Japan/Foto.net
The United States enters the third and final group match of the Olympic Football Tournament needing a draw to guarantee advancement to the knock out stages of the competition. Sunday’s heartbreaking turn of events against a totally outclassed Holland team means that the US must get something from a match against a team much better, and deeper than the Dutch. This will be a tall order especially with Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley both suspended for a accumulating two yellow cards. For Nigeria, defenders Onyecachi Apam and Olubayu Adefeme have also been suspended.
Nigeria has been the most impressive team in the Group B thus far. They have completely controlled both of their matches but have been wasteful in the attack. Like the United States, Nigeria’s failure to secure three points against Holland must be seen as a defeat of sorts considering the flow of the game never favored the Dutch and that by attaining two draws Holland could still advance and one of these two teams could miss out on the knock out stages.
The Nigerians play a high tempo game featuring two outstanding strikers: Victor Anichebe of Everton and Victor Obinna who plays in Serie A. With all due respect to Ryan Babel, these are the two best strikers the US have seen in Group B play. Sani Kaiti anchors the excellent midfield. The quickness of the Nigerian attack and the weakness of the American midfield without Adu and Bradley could prove decisive in this match.
Expecting the United States to defeat Nigeria after failing to secure three points against an over matched Holland squad is asking too much. Can the US get a draw from this match? Certainly, but it will be up to the American attackers to poach a goal or two on the counter because the style Nigeria plays they control possession and create lots of chances. However, the Nigerians are not strong at the back and with two starters missing, the US will have the opportunity to counter attack and get a draw in the match. Also, to simply assume the Dutch will beat Japan would be folly. The Netherlands like many European sides playing in the middle of summer in hotter climates is having trouble staying sharp beyond halftime. Japan is an extremely quick and fit side, and I would not be shocked if Japan gets a draw and sends the US on to the next round regardless of the outcome of this match.