Nigerians appear to pin hopes in Dream Team VI, going by steady manner that the team has been inching toward the medal zone in the ongoing Rio Olympic Games’ soccer event.
Even though the team had been dogged by a myriad of problems, thrown at them by the haphazard manner of preparation for big events including the ongoing Olympics, the team has hardly let that come in between them and victory when it mattered most.
“We are ready to die to wrestle the Olympic Gold,’’ members of the Dream team have resolved shortly after they overcame the Danish team to win the ticket to meet the Germans in one of the semi-finals of the soccer event of the Games.
Chelsea star player, John Obi Mike, captain of the team and one of the three overage players, said he did not want to return to Chelsea, his club, without an Olympic Games gold medal.
He vowed to delay his return to his English Premier League side after helping Nigeria to reach men’s football semi-final against Germany in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
He added that he was determined to have the Games gold to declare in his luggage.
“I hope to go back to Chelsea as the Olympic champion. That is my aim,’’ vowed the 29-year-old Obi, who scored the opener in the 2-0 quarterfinal win over Denmark in Salvador on Aug. 13.
“I came out here to do my best to help the team with the gold medal.
“That has always been my objective. It’s my aim and the players all want the same. When you have a group of players all wanting to achieve the same thing, hopefully it will go well at the end.
“Hopefully, the semi-final will go well on Wednesday and then we will be in the final and win the gold medal’’.
An ex-Eagles’ goalkeeper, South Africa-based Idah Peterside, said the team could defeat Germany when they clash in the semi-final.
Peterside said from Johannesburg, that the match would be tough. “ The semi-final against Germany will be tough. We can win the match. We all have to pray for them and wish them well’’.
He said the presence of striker Etebo Oghenekaro in the match can boost the country’s chances because he has potential to score goals.
“ Etebo`s presence will be a great boost to the team. I hope he is okay and fit for that match,” he said.
He noted that the Dream team has recorded great results in the course of the games. “All that matters now is the Gold. I am optimistic that this result is achievable’’.
The team will be certain to have the backing of many lovers of Nigerian brand of soccer because many Brazilians have not forgotten the raw deal they had at the 1996 Atlanta Games, when the original Dream team beat them to gold.
The venue of the match, Sao Paulo, will offer a good setting, if the boys can reproduce the sparkle that they have shown since the start of the completion right from the tight and strangulating circumstance that dogged their path to Manaus for the opening match.
In spite of late arrival at the venue of the first match in Manaus, they hit Japan 5-4 to set the tone for a challenging event. They also defeated Sweden, 1-0 but gave a second string side the opportunity to concede 0-2 to Colombia.
The result did not upset the balance as the two previous victories were enough to see the team through quarters.
With a huge number of Nigerians in Sao Paulo and environs, the National team would not lack vital support to forge ahead.
Although the team did not impress during the last group match against Denmark, losing 0-2 but many said they had since put that behind them since it did not affect the team’s progress to the crucial quarters.
Mike Adjuya, a Brazil-based Nigerian soccer agent, said: “I have since forgotten about the loss. Many other Nigerians will be there at the Arena Corinthian to show solidarity to the team.’’
“The team needs us now. We shall be more organised in providing the vital support. The team will make history. I will be happy to be part of it, ‘’ noted Chinedu Nwosu, a Nigerian and Sao Paulo businessman.
“I am confident the Dream Team will prevail. They have Olympic Games’ soccer pedigree. That is what has seen them through to this stage.
“I have seen that Nigerian spirit of rising to occasion when a challenge presents itself, especially the many obstacles that have dogged their getting to this stage. They are fired up now. They have a way of dismantling big soccer nations.
“I see a Nigeria-Brazil finals and it will be a good advertisement for World football,’’ noted George Aluo, the Sports Editor of the Sun Newspaper, in Brazil covering the Games.
Coach Samson Siasia said he was confident that his boys would deliver. “The dream is a gold medal. This vital possession I want. I know all my boys want this as well.’’
Mikel reckons that his team has already defied the odds in reaching the last four.
“It was a bit frustrating coming down here, but while we were in Atlanta we knew that we had a good shot at getting to the final or winning the tournament.’’
“With the problems we have had getting to this stage, it is just absolutely amazing and we just have to keep going.’’