BEIJING, China (August 13, 2008) — The U.S. Men’s Olympic Team fought bravely to overcome being down a man for 87 minutes, but the heroics of goalkeeper Brad Guzan and a last-minute frenzy to score the equalizer were not enough as the U.S. fell 2-1 to Nigeria before 48,096 at the Beijing Workers' Stadium. The loss knocked the U.S. out of the 2008 Olympic Games, while Nigeria earned first place in Group B.
Goals from Chinedu Obasi and Victor Obinna on either side of halftime gave the Nigerians a lead that proved too much to overcome, despite a Sacha Kljestan penalty kick conversion in the 88th minute and a flurry of U.S. chances in the waning moments, including a header from substitute Charlie Davies that agonizingly struck the crossbar. Guzan made several saves on the night, some in spectacular fashion, to keep the U.S. in the match against a crafty Nigerian attack.
“It’s disappointing, there’s no question about that,” said U.S. coach Peter Nowak. “We played so hard tonight, and we can’t express our feelings in the right way now. Soccer can be a cruel game. I am very proud of the effort these players put in. They left everything on the field and never gave up.”
The U.S. could have advanced despite the loss if the Netherlands failed to beat Japan, but the current European U-21 champions benefitted from a penalty kick in the 79th minute to win 1-0 and move on to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. started out confident and promising before suffering a major setback in the third minute when defender Michael Orozco was harshly shown a red card following a minor elbow to Solomon Okoronko. Down to 10 men, the team shifted formation by moving Robbie Rogers to left back and dropping striker Jozy Altidore into left midfield.
Despite the setback, the U.S. remained composed and continued to play organized defensively while looking for chances to advance. As the half wore on, Nigeria assumed more of the possession and began to force the U.S. to defend for long stretches.
The Nigerians nearly got on the board in the 31st minute when Chinedu Obasi created space for himself in the box on the left side of goal. Picking out the far post, Obasi drilled a low drive that forced Guzan into a spectacular diving save.
After sustained pressure, Nigeria was finally able to break through the U.S. defense in the 39th minute on a nice bit of individual flair. A ball over the top put Victor Obinna alone against Michael Parkhurst. The striker managed his way around his mark and slotted a pass across the goal. With Guzan diving and Robbie Rogers sliding to defend, team captain Promise Isaac found a gap between the two and tapped home the first goal of the match.
As the U.S. sought to ride out the half, Nigeria nearly doubled the lead on the last play of the opening stanza. A corner kick was cleared to the top of the box, where Ebenezer Ajilore hit a low volley towards goal. The effort was redirected by Isaac and appeared to be heading towards the side netting, but an alert Danny Szetela stood sentry at the near post and cleared the ball off the line.
The U.S. started out the second half appearing poised and prepared to seek the equalizer. They had a golden chance in the 52nd minute when hustle from Kljestan put the ball on the feet of Rogers on the left flank. He delivered a high cross into the box, where Brian McBride and his mark both challenged for a header that neither could quite reach. The chance fell to Holden, but the opportunity caught him slightly off guard and he was unable to direct a shot on goal.
While the U.S. continued to probe, disaster nearly struck in the 66th minute. Victor Obinna collected the ball on the left side of the U.S. penalty area and used some fancy footwork to create space for a cross. His low driven effort deflected off Benny Feilhaber and screamed towards goal, forcing an incredible reaction save from Guzan to keep the U.S. hopes alive.
The U.S. chances for advancement took a major blow in the 72nd minute when reports from Shenyang indicated that the Netherlands had scored against Japan. The Dutch were the beneficiaries of a penalty kick awarded in the 73rd minute, the conversion meaning that the U.S. had no choice but to press for a goal.
With the U.S. putting a massive effort into tying the game, Nigeria eventually found the opportunity to double the lead in the 79th minute. A nice through ball played Obinna into the penalty area once again on the left side of goal. Parkhurst slid over to cover, and a nice cutback by Obinna earned him time and space to shoot. With no pressure, he calmly curled a shot to the far post past the helpless U.S. ‘keeper.
The substitution of Davies for Stuart Holden injected new life and speed into the U.S. attack, setting up an exciting and excruciating climax to the match. In the 87th minute, Rogers used a cut back off a corner kick to deliver a curling drive towards goal that just skimmed past the reach of two U.S. attackers. Moments later, the U.S. earned a penalty when McBride cleverly chipped a ball into the box for an onrushing Maurice Edu. The U.S. defender was tackled at the top of the area on a reckless challenge from Nigeria goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin, the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Kljestan calmly converted the ensuing penalty, breathing added life into an already amped U.S. attack.
In the final minute of regulation time, the U.S. earned a free kick 30 yards from goal on the left flank. Second-half substitute Dax McCarty swerved a delivery into the crowded area, where Davies twisted to head a powerful drive that caromed off the cross bar. A minute later, Davies found himself one v. one 18 yards out, striking a low effort that Vanzekin dove to collect.
With the U.S. in all-out attack mode, Nigeria had a great chance to net their third of the game in the 93rd minute when a counter put Victor Anichebe through on a sprint from midfield. Pressed high to help the U.S. efforts, Guzan was forced into retreat mode but won a challenge from Anichebe at the top of the box. Chasing down the rebound outside the area, Guzan challenged for a 50-50 ball, with Obasi ending up with the ball at his feet and a near open goal. The striker chose to try and dribble past defenders, eventually putting a weak effort wide.
- U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -
Match-up: USA vs. Nigeria
Competition: 2008 Olympics Games
Venue: Beijing Worker’s Stadium; Beijing, China
Date: August 13, 2008; Kickoff – 5:00 p.m. local / 5:00 a.m. ET
Weather: Cloudy, 85 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
NGA 1 1 2
NGA – Promise Isaac (Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi) 39th minute.
NGA – Victor Obinna (Ebenezer Ajilore) 79.
USA – Sacha Kljestan (penalty) 88.
USA: 18-Brad Guzan; 2-Marvell Wynne, 6-Maurice Edu, 15-Michael Parkhurst, 3-Michael Orozco; 14-Robbie Rogers, 7-Stuart Holden (9-Charlie Davies, 77), 16-Sacha Kljestan, 8-Danny Szetela (5-Dax McCarty, 69); 17-Brian McBride, 12-Jozy Altidore (10-Benny Feilhaber, 46)
Subs: 1-Chris Seitz, 13-Patrick Ianni
Head Coach: Peter Nowak
NGA: 1-Ambruse Vanzekin; 2-Chibuzor Okonkwo, 5-Dele Adeleye, 15-Efe Ambrose; 6-Monday James, 8-Sani Kaita, 10-Promise Isaac (capt.) (16-Victor Anichebe, 72), 12-Ebenezer Ajilore (17-Emmanuel Ekpo, 85); 7-Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, 9-Victor Obinna, 11-Solomon Okoronkwo (14-Peter Odemwingie, 68)
Subs: 18-Ikechukwu Ezenwa, 19-Oladapo Olufemi
Head Coach: Samson Siasia
Statistical Summary: USA / NGA
Shots: 8 / 20
Shots on Goal: 4 / 5
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 5
Fouls: 7 / 11
Offside: 0 / 1
USA – Michael Orozco (sent off) 3rd minute.
USA – Benny Feilhaber (caution) 60.
NGA – Ambruse Vanzekin (caution) 87.
Referee: Wolfgang Starg (GER)
Asst. Referee: Volker Wezel (GER)
Asst. Referee: Jan-Hendrik Salver (GER)
4th Official: Khalil Al Ghamdi (KSA)
Sierra Mist Man of the Match: Brad Guzan
2008 Olympic Men’s Soccer Tournament Standings
Australia 1, Serbia 1
Ivory Coast vs. Argentina, 7:45 a.m. ET
Argentina 1, Australia 0
Serbia 2, Ivory Coast 4
Ivory Coast 1, Australia 0
Argentina 2, Serbia 0
Japan 0, USA 1
Netherlands 0, Nigeria 0
Nigeria 2, Japan 1
USA 2, Netherlands 2
Netherlands 1, Japan 0
Nigeria 2, USA 0
Brazil 1, Belgium 0
China 1, New Zealand 1
New Zealand 0, Brazil 5
Belgium 2, China 0
China 0, Brazil 3
New Zealand 0, Belgium 1
Honduras 0, Italy 3
South Korea 1, Cameroon 1
Cameroon 1, Honduras 0
Italy 3, South Korea 0
South Korea 1, Honduras 0
Cameroon 0, Italy 0