11 August 2016
The performances of Nigeria’s U-23 team in their first two matches at the Rio Olympics football competition attracted a lot of plaudits from Nigerian football lovers, but not same for their third match against Colombia.
With the kind of performances on display in the team’s first two matches, fans expected a 100 per cent record in the group stage by nicking a win over Colombia in their last Group B match which was played on Wednesday.
The Dream Team unfortunately fell short of this dream as they slumped to a 0 – 2 defeat against a Colombian team that needed the win to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Sure everyone hates to be on the losing side, but in the case of Nigeria’s loss to Colombia, it can be seen as ‘bad, but not that bad’.
A couple of good things can be taken from the result. Below are some of them:
- Nigeria avoided playing host Brazil in the quarter-final: Before the match against Colombia, Nigeria looked very likely to face Brazil in the quarter-final. The loss to Colombia isn’t directly related to avoiding Brazil, rather Brazil’s 4-0 thrashing of Denmark means that Nigeria will face Denmark in the last eight on Saturday and avoid a potentially-difficult Brazil. While it is common knowledge these days that there is no longer any easy team in football, avoiding a star-studded Brazilian side makes a lot of sense. Brazil’s Selecao Olimpica boasts of the likes of Barca’s Neymar, Manchester City’s new signing, Gabriel Barbosa who scored a brace against Denmark, and the skillful Gabriel Jesus. Avoiding them is sure a big boost to any team’s chances of advancing.
- Nigeria was able to rest five key players: Coach Samson Siasia made five changes to his starting eleven in the match against Colombia. Emmanuel Daniel, Kingsley Madu, Saliu Popoola, Aminu Umar and Ndifreke Udo were all handed their first start in the competition. Key players like John Mikel Obi, Oghenekaro Etebo who already has four goals in the competition still started but that could be because Siasia thinks they can handle the fatigue better than the others. Resting players keeps them fresh for oncoming matches and ensures better performance as a result of reduced fatigue. This is a usual practice by European clubs who play a lot of matches within a week.
- The team won’t be complacent against Denmark: One major worry for a team that has everything going for it is complacency. Players can easily get carried away by past successes and relax needlessly. The loss to Colombia will ensure that Nigeria realise they have to keep working hard in every game to win the Gold medal in football, just as they did in 1996.