•Dream Team battle Germany tonight Time: 8pm
Having braved all the odds to reach the semi-final of the Rio 2016 Olympics event, there is only one way up for the Nigerian U-23 team and that is winning the gold medal.
It will not only compensate for their long suffering; it will also give a nation hard pressed for medals at the Games a reason to celebrate. The Olympic Eagles so far, represent the only avenue for Nigeria to be on the medals table. A win against Germany today will almost guarantee that.
The team from their runs in the Games have raked up the credentials to be gold medallists, and then walk tall like the U-23 class of 1996 that beat Brazil and Argentina in the semi-final and final respectively to become the first African team to win gold.
Nigerian coach Samson Siasia who has distinguished himself as a youth tournament specialist is just two games away from proving that he is not a nearly man. In 2005 with John Obi Mikel as his captain he lost in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with Lionel Messi pivoting the Argentinian team to a 2-0 win in that tournament. At the 2008 Olympics Beijing, China Messi returned to haunt Siasia as he set up Angel D’Maria to score the only goal that separated Argentina and Nigeria in that match.
Former Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu backed the team to beat Germany.
“Coach Siasia has done really well despite all the challenges they have faced and I want to commend captain Mikel Obi for leading by example and everyone in the team has done well.”
“We are just two matches away from making history as the first African country to win the soccer Gold medal twice after we won 20 years ago in Atlanta,” he said.
“Now is the time to support them with our prayers so that the team could make us proud again.”
The Olympic Eagles must have to girdle their loins most especially the defence against the free scoring Germans. They beat Portugal 4-0 in their last game, against a shaky Eagles back-line it is a worry how Nigeria can keep the Germans at bay.
“They are a good side. They did not start well, but the most important thing is how you end,” Siasia added.
Football enthusiasts here in Rio are already looking forward to a re-match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final game between Germany and Brazil. They are hoping that Brazil yet to win a gold medal in the Olympics will meet Germany and take revenge for the 7-1 humiliating defeat, and win the gold medal in style.
But Nigeria based on their form look good to re-write the script. The Olympic Eagles landed in Brazil five hours to their game against Japan and they shocked football analysts who have written them off with a 5-4 win over Japan. Sweden were the next victims in the group B pairings. Nigeria won 1-0 to seal their quarter-final spot despite the 2-0 loss to Colombia in their last match.
The 2-0 win by Nigeria over Denmark in the quarter-final was a stark warning to the Germans that Nigeria are not a push over team.
“They have quality in their team. And we must certainly approach the game with caution,” said the German U-23 team coach.