BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
It was Samba-decoded as the emerging Super Eagles assembly played with a lot of guts, but was held to a 1-1 draw by the record-holding five-time World Cup winners, the seleção of Brazil.
The Nigerian side, which placed third in the African Cup, has thus increased to four, the winless streak of the current South American champions, Brazil.
For Joe Aribo, he showed he still has a lot to offer Nigeria as he scored the Nigerian goal just as he opened scoring in his debut for the Super Eagles last month in Ukraine.
For him, it is now two goals in two matches. After impressive display by the Super Eagles, it was Joe Aribo who plays for Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish league that got Nigeria the deserved lead.
The 35th minute goal can go for television exhibition any day. Aribo latched onto a Moses Simon’s pass, weaved past Brazilian stars including Marquinhos to slam a shot beyond Ederson for his second international goal in as many games.
It was a beauty of a goal! The main star of the Brazilian was to be Neymar. But he spent less than a dozen minute on the pitch as he had to be substituted after just 11 minutes 49 seconds due to a hamstring complaint.
Interestingly, there were both jeers of disappointment at seeing the £198 million (S$344 million) man come off, as well as cheers when the Liverpool fans among the 20,385-strong crowd realised that Philippe Coutinho was the replacement.
Neymar started in a deeper central midfield role behind the front three of Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Everton as Brazil coach, Tite made just two changes as Sports Village Square had earlier announced.
The exit of Neymar no doubt unsettled the Brazilians, as they could not find their rhythm.
The young Nigerian side, whose average age is 23.5 years, gradually imposed themselves in the game as the Selecao struggled to cope with Super Eagles’ pace and power.
Leicester City defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi was a beast in the engine room as he easily outmuscled the likes of Coutinho, even decking the Bayern Munich man in the 27th minute.
But in a twinkle of an eye, the tempo changed in the second half as Brazilian Coach Tite appeared to have gotten an anwer to the first half free-flowing football of the Super Eagles.
The Nigerian side appeared not to have an answer. Within three minutes of the restart, it was obvious that the Nigerian defence would have to cope with a lot of pressure.
Brazil’s Skipper Dani Alves’ cross from the right was headed on to the bar by Marquinhos, and Casemiro was on hand to sweep home the loose ball.
The goal appeared to disorganized the Nigerian team as Brazil regained their esteem.
It was raid after raid into the Nigerian territory as more players had to retreat to help fortify the defence and banking on just break-away moves.
Under pressure, Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho made a landing that apparently got him injured and had to be substituted by debuting Maduka Okoye.
It is not certain how serious Uzoho’s injury is and how long it may take him to return to the field.