The stage is set for the knockout stages of one of sport’s greatest events in the world as Nigeria’s U-23 team confront Denmark in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympic Games Men’s football at the Fonte Nova Arena, Salvador on Saturday by 8 p.m. Nigerian time (3 p.m. EST).
Both teams are no strangers to each other having met at the Suwon Four Nation Invitational tournaments in June where the Danish side pummeled their Nigerian counterpart 6-2. Although, a few of the players that featured at that match for Nigeria were dropped for the Rio party, the Dream Team will be pushing to avenge their defeat in a bid to book a place in the semifinals of the competition.
Nigeria were top of group B with six points thanks to their 5-4 win over Japan and 1-0 victory over Sweden before facing defeat against Colombia in their last group match. On the other hand, Denmark came second in group A after drawing with Iraq in their opening match, then beating South Africa 1-0 in their second game before being humiliated 4-0 by hosts Brazil in their final group match.
Regardless of Nigeria’s dominance in their group, the team should be wary of the fact that their defense has leaked more goals than their Danish counterparts who have conceded four goals, all coming against Brazil. Psychologically, the Denmark side could have an advantage over Nigeria going by their emphatic victory over them, but since football is unpredictable; the team that takes their goal scoring chances could eventually carry the day.
Nigeria’s travails are further exacerbated with injuries. Junior Ajayi and Ogenekharo Etebo are nursing injuries that could probably rule them out of the clash against Denmark on Saturday except if the unusual happens.
Keeping up morale
Allegedly the Dream Team could boycott the game entirely, due to an unpaid camp allowances and bonuses by the Nigeria Football Federation, forcing the players to skip training on Friday.
Meanwhile, Dream Team VI coach Samson Siasia has revealed to Africanfootball.com that he’s hoping his team gets a leg up on the Scandinavians.
“I knew there would be questions about the game. They killed us then [at the Suwon tournament]. They had seven chances and scored six goals. It has never happened before in football,” said Siasia.
“There have been replacements on both our and their teams since then, but it will be a tough battle. We are ready and must ensure that it is we who win 6-2 this time.”