By Obiweluozo Martins
The Dream Team VI have been drawn with Japan, Sweden and Colombia and will take to the pitch first against the Japanese side who are another package of threat in Rio Olympics games.
For Nigeria at the Olympic level Nigeria knows Japan well and have an edge over the Asians as both sides meet in Atlanta 1996 with Nigeria triumph 2-0 with goals from Austin (Jay-Jay) Okocha and Tijani Babangida while the Beijing 2008 Dream Team defeated Japan 2-1 with strike from Obinna Nsofor and Victor Anichebe in between Milan star Keisuke Honda consolation strike.
As time changes it means only that Nigeria might be favourite on paper and must assert themselves against the Japanese going into the other games. The first game is usually very crucial for the Dream Team VI and Samson Siasia’s men cannot afford not to win the first game for many reason.
We evaluate why the Dream Team VI must win the opening game against Japan.
AVOID EARLY PRESSURE
The Dream Team VI must be very way about the Japanese side as the Asian side possess some array of attacking talent who are very athletic on the field of play.
The burst of speed from the Japanese players enables them to embark on quick transition especially against mindless defence and that is why the Dream Team must trade with caution, against the Asians failure to win the game opening dash against Japan would mount an early pressure on the U-23 side ahead of the Swedish game, as the Swedish side are also a tough knot to crack after qualifying as the European Champions in the UEFA Zone.
There is need for the Siasia led guy to notch a win against Japan to spare Nigerians from certain permutation and mathematical calculation as the Sweden sides are another basket of worry going forward. Failure to win Japan will mount a much win approach on the team against Sweden and such pressure might be too much for the Dream Team IV lads’ couple with added criticism from Nigerians who will not spare/withhold to tow ice out their passionate opinions.
SENDING WARNING TO OTHER OPPONENTS
The result of the game against Japan will go a long way to speak for the Dream Team especially when this is actualized with a good margin. This will lower the pressure and improve the confidence within the side ahead of subsequent matches in the Olympics.
A big win will set the tone for the U-23 side as Nigerians are patiently fighting their seat belt in readiness for the Olympic Games. There is a need to get maximum points against the Asians (with good margin) at least to send a message to the other team about regarding our credentials with days ahead.
A comfortable win will enable to team to command respect of their opponent which will be a big leverage to a good outing in Brazil as some teams would be worried with the prospect of coming against Nigeria in the latter stages, but failure to win will cast a shadow on the team.
GET A FAVOURABLE KNOCKOUT
Winning an opening game against the Asians would profit the Eagles on various ground as it will enable the Dream Team to finish well in the group and avoid top opposition in the knockout stages. This was Nigeria quagmire in U-20 World Cup in New Zealand when the Flying Eagles failed the opening test though against Brazil in a 24 team contest and met the German machine who eased past the Nigerian side 1-0 in the U-20 World Cup.
With Nigeria in Group B along with the Japan, Sweden, Colombia who are likely to face Brazil as the host stand a chance of topping the standings in group A. It will be good for the U-23 side to come first in the group to avoid any top clash now, leaving such games to come at the semi-finals or finals. The Dream Team VI and the technical crew must bear in mind the need to start well to avoid any early knockout difficult as we try the possible best to keep our Olympic (Gold) dreams alive in the tournament.
A SIGNAL TO SCOUTS
The Nigerian Team the Dream Team IV have been under review for the past couple of years and there is no denying about the promising careers of most of the players in the squad. So the opening games is an opportunity for the team to register a win which will draw the recognition of some scouts to their subsequent matches.
The score line has a way of instilling confidence about the quality and class a team possess and Nigeria’s case will not be different as a win is needed against Japan. The scouting personnel who are coming to Rio are likely to beam there searchlight on players like Etebo Oghenekaro following an impressive campaign in Senegal Dakar last December during the U-23 qualifying tournament as well as Umar Sadiq whose talent have been liked with several clubs as well.
John Obi Mikel stands a chance of impressing some other top sides in Europe as his Chelsea future is not yet clear at the moment, but if the team fails to win it might not inspire the scouts to take the Dream Team VI into consideration.
WIN THE INTEREST OF NIGERIANS
The Nigerian football circle is on a kind of a low win as regards to performance level in competition. The bane of the Nigerian game now is the inability of the different teams to qualify for the Championship with the promising U-20 side led by Amuneke another victim that breaks the heart. Nigerians are in a kind of cautions mood as regards to Dream Team VI participation in football event.
This is why the Dream Team must seize this big chance to beat Japan to win the trust of Nigerians who will come to the second game to cheer their darling Dream Team VI with some level of exultation, passion and hope towards the National Team.
The Nigerian team have disappointed over the past couple of months and the first game is the right time to set the ball rolling to encourage fans to come out in large number to support their team with so much optimism for victory in the days ahead.