They were stranded in Atlanta, United States of America where they were initially billed to spend 18 days preparing for the competition, but ended up staying 39 days.
However, this did not seem to dampen the spirit of the team as the players drew the first blood from the Japanese.
It was a match in which three goals were scored in a space of four minutes, with four goals from Oghenekaro Etebo Ebelo helping Nigeria outscored the Japanese.
Hiroki Fujiharu crossed to the far post for Ryota Ohshima who connected well with a volley, but his shot was saved by Emmanuel Daniel, spilled back in front of Ohshima but Nigeria were able to clear for a corner before Ohshima could shoot again.
Two minutes later, Nigerian gangling forward Sadiq Umar opened the scoring after Imoh Ezekiel had his shot saved following some superb dribbling on the right wing. Umar was as a tormentor-in-chief there to tap in the second chance after Japan goalkeeper Masatoshi Kushibiki spilled it right in front of him.
Japan responded with a goal of their own three minutes later when a penalty kick was given after Stanley Amuzie fouled Shoya Nakajima in the penalty area. Shinzo Koroki stepped up and converted a very calm and composed penalty, sending Daniel the wrong way.
Oghenekaro Etebo then put Nigeria back in the lead a minute later, controlling a very high cross with his chest before unleashing a half volley into Kushibiki’s goal to give Nigeria the lead back.
Seconds later, Red Bull Salzburg’s Takumi Minamino found himself one on one with Daniel. He calmly slotted his shot past the goalkeeper to make it 2-2, thrilling the Manaus crowd.
Etebo had another say before the break. He scored his second goal of the match and gave Nigeria the lead back for the third time when Umar found him ghosting in the penalty area. Etebo’s initial shot was saved but he scored with his second chance.
Etebo picked up from where he left off and he completed his hat-trick five minutes after the restart, scoring from the penalty spot after Umar was fouled in the area.
The Feirense man then scored his fourth goal of the night, picking up a poor clearance from Kushibiki and scoring from about 20 yards into an empty net. That goal looked to have taken the life out of Japan, but they didn’t give up.
Four minutes after Etebo’s fourth, substitute and new Arsenal signing Takuma Asano finished off a great attacking play for Japan with his backheel, pulling his team back to a two-goal deficit.
Japan never gave up and in the fifth minute of injury time substitute Musashi Suzuki curled in his shot from the top of the area after cutting in on his left foot.
Nigeria quickly did some changes to contain the rampaging Japanese who most likely were looking for a possible draw. The west Africans did enough to hold on defensively and secure all three points as they now look ahead to their second match of the tournament against Sweden on Sunday. Japan meet Colombia that same day. Earlier, Sweden and Colombia ended in a draw.
It would be recalled that Nigeria struck gold before, in 1996, and boasts Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi (he recently corrected the long-organization of his name from John Obi Mikel) as well as Roma starlet Umar Sadiq and Sampdoria defender Amuzie Stanley among the galaxy of stars in the team.
The Nigerians were able to put behind them the multiple frustration of their nation’s sports ministry who dragged the team in only hours before their game making them to suffer jet lag after a seven hour long trip from Atlanta.