On March 5th the Georgia Dome went all-green with the much anticipated arrival of the Mexican National Team to face Nigeria, as part of their U.S. Tour. El Tri (Mexico) took on the Super Eagles (Nigeria) in front of a sold-out crowd at the Georgia Dome (total 68,212, a record for attendance in Atlanta for a soccer match).
El Tri came off the blocks with immense pressure against Nigeria but they composed themselves well. The first 10 minutes saw the Super Eagles dominate possession. Action came in the 11’ as Emmanuel Emenike took a shot from close range which was deflected by Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa.
More action came in the 18’ as Nigeria’s Victor Moses took possession off a Mexican turnover and fired a rocket just wide of goal.
Mexico’s first SOG (Shot on Goal) came in the 22’ when Hector Herrera tried to bend one outside the 17-yd box. His shot went just a hair over the goal as the crowd responded with a loud groan.
As time progressed the match became even sided with both sides having ample chances at goal. Possession was no longer dominated by Nigeria as Mexico was beginning to find their pace. All was well until the 35’ when a questionable decision to halt play was made when a Nigerian defender went down while Mexico was on a breakaway (4 on 2). Play would eventually continue but within 2 minutes after that it almost seemed like Nigeria was flopping every chance they could. After continuous stoppages the game eventually moved into halftime with the score nil-nil.
The 2nd half had a fast-paced start to it and Mexico wasted no time testing the Keeper. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama came up big for the Super Eagles making 2 back-to-back saves after saving an initial header from Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez and a long distance shot from outside the 17-yd box.
From the Mexico side, the shots came flying in the 2nd half but Austin Ejide continued to be the wall for Nigeria blocking everything that came his way.
Although the match was action packed and hosted record-setting attendance, the game ended in a deadlock of nil-nil.
So even though the match ended in a draw, both sides looked solid. There were many scoring opportunities that weren’t successful just because they were off the mark (not taken accurately) but both sides should be happy with their keeping. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide had spectacular performances as Mexico upped their offense in the 2nd half and kept up the pressure.
Mexico is 21st in the FIFA World Rankings and Nigeria stands at 47th. Both teams are in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and this was a good warmup for both sides.
The U.S. Tour for Mexico is about experience, for both the players and the fans. The big message that this match should send to the city of Atlanta? This city is ready, waiting, even starving, for more soccer. Only time will tell if the city will deliver.
Photography: Hakim Wright