BELO HORIZONTE, 18 JUNE: 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.
A sparse crowd of just 20,187 made their way to the newly renovated Estadio Mineirao but they were vocal in their support of Tahiti, who registered the game’s first shot on target through Vincent Simon.
Fortune deserted the underdogs moments later, however.
After the ball bounced off referee Joel Aguilar, Echiejile launched a speculative shot that deflected off Tehau and captain Nicolas Vallar and ricocheted past Tahiti goalkeeper Xavier Samin. Oduamadi added two more, neatly side-stepping a pair of challenges and sweeping home in the 10th minute, before tapping in his second when Samin spilled a low cross from Ahmed Musa.
Nigeria made heavy work of putting the game to bed though, with Musa miskicking in front of an open goal before Anthony Ujah and Sunday Mba both allowed Samin to save when clean through on goal.
Tahiti had already seen their one professional player, Marama Vahirua, drive a shot narrowly over, and they threatened to make things interesting as Steevy Chong Hue headed wide from a Ricky Aitamai cross.
Musa miscued again from 12 yards early in the second half, before the goal that Tahiti had been threatening arrived in the 54th minute.
The honour fell to Tehau, who headed in a deep corner kick from Vahirua at the back post and then led his ecstatic team-mates in a canoe-paddling celebration.
The goal also sparked jubilation on the bench, coach Eddy Etatea leaping from the dug-out with his fists in the air.
But Tehau’s day took a turn for the worse in the 68th minute when he inadvertently toed the ball into his own goal to restore Nigeria’s three-goal advantage.
Oduamadi tucked in a cross from substitute Brown Ideye to complete his hat-trick in the 76th minute, with Echiejile adding a sixth shortly after as Tahiti’s reserves of resistance finally ran dry.