Even with a loss tonight against Germany, Nigeria’s Dream Team VI still have a shot at the bronze medal in football in the ongoing Rio Olympics. It may seem like classic Nigerian football – they’ve led us down this road several times before, gotten so close to a major football title, only to disappoint. But even with their history, it’s hard not to hope. With only 1 loss and 4 wins to their name, and German opponents that have had a less than stellar campaign in the Rio Olympics, drawing twice and winning 3 times, the Dream Team VI have a really good chance indeed. Germany’s Rio Olympics football team struggled against defending champions Mexico, and managed a draw, but thrashed Fiji 10 – 0 to qualify for the knockout stage. They continued their run of good form with another surprise 4-0 win over a strong Portugal team.
But one thing is for sure – Nigeria’s Dream Team VI wouldn’t go down without a fight. Manager Samson Siasia has promised not to gamble with the squad, the way he did against Columbia which lost Nigeria the group stage match. Though in all fairness, he had to rest 5 important players, or risk excess fatigue and even injury. Nigeria’s Dream Team VI have nonetheless has a shaky start to the the tournament, having to deal with inadequacies of an apparently less than competent sports ministry, and encountering several issues that have made many question their ability to return with anything tangible from the Rio Olympics. From a late arrival to the games – barely 13 hours to the opening match against Japan, and the injury of a key player in the squad – Etebo Oghenekaro, the Dream Team VI ‘s campaign has been fraught with ill luck and problems.
But through it all, there has been a constant, reliable force in the person of captain John Mikel Obi. From influencing the securing of a Delta flight to the Rio Olympics for a stranded Dream Team VI to footing the $4600 hotel bill when the team had hotel troubles, Mikel has proven a true leader on and off the pitch. “Everytime we go onto the field, we forget about everything and make sure our fatherland comes first.” This determination to achieve could also stem from a desire to be on par with Nigerian football legend Nwankwo Kanu. Presently, John Mikel Obi is behind Nwankwo Kanu as the most decorated Nigerian footballer and an Olympic gold medal would remedy this. This attaches even more importance to the Rio Olympics, as Dream Team VI look to replicate what the original Dream Team achieved in Atlanta 1996. This is understood, seeing as you get only so many chances at an Olympic gold medal.
And so a match stands between Dream Team VI and another olympic football final – the last being Beijing, in 2008, with another Siasia-led squad which lost 1-0 to Argentina. The German opposition is definitely a team to beat in the Rio Olympics, but with the Nigerian squad able to draw inspiration from both coach and captain, Dream Team VI ‘s chances in the Rio Olympics look pretty good indeed.