We came to Rio for ‘these type of games,’ says Mikel
Siasia worried over five months’ outstanding pay
Nigeria go into today’s semifinal clash with Germany knowing victory will take them closer to their second football Olympic Games medal.
The Nigerians won the ultimate medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and came second at the 2008 edition in Beijing. Now, they have an opportunity of equaling either of the two achievements.
The journey has not been a smooth one for the U-23 Eagles, who arrived in Brazil just hours before their opening 5-4 win over Japan last week after being stranded for several days at their training base in Atlanta because the Federation hadn’t booked flight tickets in advance.
Team Coach, Samson Siasia, has also threatened to quit, claiming he hasn’t been paid his salary “for the past five months.”
Team Captain, John Obi MIkel, says this is not time to look back, as the gold medal will compensate for all the hardship they went through.
“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 is just absolutely amazing and we just have to keep going. Playing in this sort of games is the reason we sacrificed every comfort to be here.”
According to MIkel, who said he promised his teammates at Chelsea that he would win the gold medal, the U-23 Eagles have been working hard to be ready for the Germans, adding that the team has no injury worries.
“All the players are focused on winning the gold medal and when you have a group of players all wanting to achieve the same thing, hopefully it will go well at the end,” he said.
Coach Siasia took the team through penalty drills on Monday, showing that the team is not taking anything for granted.
Siasia walked the same path in 2008 when his team defeated Belgium 3-0 to qualify for the final of the event and eventually lost to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina.
“We have waited for so long for another opportunity to aim for the gold. We have worked hard here and I believe if everything went well, we will be in the final,” he said.
Germany is the hard-hitters of the football event of the on-going Rio Olympic Games. They have scored 19 goals in just four games, including a 4-0 destruction of Portugal in the quarterfinals.
They have also frugal in defence, keeping clean slates in their last two games.
Going into today’s semifinal against Nigeria, the Germans are rated as the clear favourites by the pundits, who don’t see Nigeria capable of keeping the rampaging Europeans at bay for 90 minutes.
Even some of their players have bought into the prediction.
Speaking after their defeat of Portugal which set them up for the game against Nigeria, Hoffenheim defender, Jeremy Toijan, said: “We are very glad that the win against Portugal ended up being by such a high margin.
“With that we have made a huge statement to the other three teams who are still left in the tournament.”
He believes that the 2014 World Cup winners are primed for their first football gold medal in the competition. The Germans won the bronze medal in 1988.
“I think we are a better side and will qualify for the final.
“That does not mean that we are taking Nigeria for granted. They have a great side and a good attack, but we are determined to win,” he said.