Nigeria's Obinna back on track

"I was so relieved to see the ball hit the back of the net," sighed powerhouse striker Victor Obinna, telling about scoring Nigeria's first goal of these Beijing finals 58 minutes into their 2-1 win over Japan in Tianjin.

The hulking forward, who plays his club football with Italian Serie A side Brescia after two seasons with Chievo Verona, missed a raft of clear chances in Nigeria's first game, a 0-0 draw with the Netherlands. He, his namesake Victor Anichebe and Peter Odemwingie were all guilty of profligate finishing on that day.

Against the Japanese, though, Obinna, 21, took the job of conjuring goals to heart, scoring a stunner and setting up another for Anichebe.

"We had to win that game against Japan," the former Enyimba player continued. "We left ourselves no choice but to attack them. We missed so many chances in our first game that we knew we just needed to relax and take our time and our chances against Japan. Ours is a very good team and the chances will always come."

Coping with pressure
With a handful of senior caps to his name, big Obinna knows the pressure is on for the so-called Dream Team to perform at these Olympic Games."I felt so good when that first goal fell, I can hardly even describe it," said Obinna, whose acrobatic celebration was almost as impressive as the goal itself. "I usually don't get so carried away with my goal celebrations but I was just overcome with emotion passion and joy all at the same time.

"Back home in Nigeria the expectations are very high for this team," added the player who begins his third year in Italy after the Beijing Games. "They want to see us vibing out there and playing the kind of football that Nigeria is known for. I think we are getting better with each game and that is the most important thing."

One of the major factors in the team's ever-improving form is the presence in the technical area of Samson Siasia. A FIFA World Cup™ veteran, the coach is regarded as a hero by his young charges and demands total respect.

"He's the best," was Obinna's concise assessment of the coach who took some of the current U-23 players to the FIFA U-20 World Cup final in 2005. "Everyone understands him. All he has to do is make a gesture or a face and we know what he wants. He has total faith in us and we have total faith in him as he has helped us get where he are today, playing for our country and for our names."

USA await
Up next for the Nigerians, on four points, is a Group B grudge match with the USA, who have also won one and drawn one. Obinna, unsurprisingly, is convinced the Nigerians will get the result they need.

"We are beginning to hit our rhythm here in China," he said. "After the first game we made some changes and now we are moving forward. The Americans will be tough as they will be fighting for their lives."

For the player - who is beginning to link up with the likes of Odemwingie and Solomon Okoronkwo to great effect in attack, only one result will do. "We want to win the game, win the group and hopefully go on to win the tournament."