The Nigerian men’s soccer team didn’t show any fatigue from a last-minute trip that brought the players to Brazil just hours before their Rio Olympics opener, beating Japan 5-4 Thursday night.
A mix-up at the airport forced Nigeria to make a late flight from Atlanta to Brazil. The team arrived in the jungle city of Manaus about six hours before overcoming jet leg and the heat and humidity in the Amazon city to win a thrilling game.
Nigeria’s Sadiq Umar dribbles past Japan’s Tsukasa Shiotani during a group B match of the men’
The team’s spokesman posted a picture on Twitter of the team boarding the plane with the message “here we go” and later displayed images of members going through immigration and collecting luggage.
The team faced the uncomfortable situation of spending the day of its debut at the Olympics aboard an airplane on a more than six-hour flight and facing a Japan team that was in Brazil for several days preparing for the contest.
Ezekiel leaps over Japan’s goalkeeper Kushibiki during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games mens First Round Group B football match
Bunmi Jinadu, founder of United Soccer Africa, disputed reports that the team missed its original flight because of a money issue between the Nigerian government and a charter company. Delta Air Lines cited a “communications mix-up” that grounded the team’s original Friday flight.
The flight the team finally boarded was on a chartered Delta jet. A spokesperson for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it stepped in to help the team get to its destination — free of charge — after learning of the flight issue.