A scoreless opening 45 minutes saw plenty of chances go begging for both sides. USA’s Haji Wright came the closest to opening the scoring 13 minutes in after getting on the end of Christian Pulisic’s cross but the No7 could not keep his effort from going over the crossbar.
The opening goal did not diminish the Americans’ attacking spirit, but Richie Williams’ side could not create any clear-cut chances to find an equaliser. And with half an hour remaining, Victor Osimhen doubled Nigeria’s lead after cleverly beating two defenders and calmly finishing past Pulisic.
To make matters worse for USA, Auston Trusty was shown a straight red card three minutes from time, which will require coach Williams to make some changes in his backline ahead of the Americans’ next match against Croatia on Tuesday. With the man advantage, the Super Eaglets confidently controlled the tempo of the game until the final whistle to put them on top of Group A, at least temporarily as Croatia take on tournament hosts Chile, also in Santiago, later on Saturday evening in the group’s other match-up.
"Considering it was the first match, I think it was a good game. At the beginning it was pretty even, everything very tactical, neither of us wanted to make a mistake. At half time I told my players to believe in themselves, and it worked, because we were more precise. Besides the three points, which are very important, I also liked that we kept our heads even when we could not get things going," Emmanuel Amuneke, Nigeria coach.
"We are obviously disappointed because of the outcome. We played a good first half, we were balanced, solid and we even created some chance that we were not able to convert. Nigeria scored two quick goals, but thank to unfortunate errors on our side. We were hoping to be more effective, but we lost against a good Nigerian team," Richie Willams, USA coach.