The Nigeria U-23 team, the Dream Team VI, may have to dig deep for the desired result as they get their campaign off in the men’s football event against Japan at the Rio Olympics.
It is expected that Japan will be keen to see how they can cash on the myriad of crisis that has plagued the Nigerian team in the past days when both sides take to the pitch in the second Group B match of the Rio 2016 men’s football event.
Game time is Friday 2.am (Nigerian time) and unfortunately, the Dream Team VI are expected in Manus from Atlanta barely seven hours to the kick-off of the game billed for the Arena da Amazônia.
The flawed travel arrangement may work in favour of the Japanese who have since been on ground and are known for their fast tempo style have the potential to run the Nigeria team ragged.
This Japanese team actually dominated their qualifying group for the AFC U-23 Championship, dispatching Macau, Vietnam and Malaysia with ease by scoring ten goals across the three matches without conceding.
They continued that good form into the final tournament, winning all three pool games to top Group B and progress to the quarter-finals.
The Samurai Blue went on to claim the continental title, coming from two goals down to win the final 3-2 against Korea Republic.
Perfectly pitched as the battle of champions, the Nigeria U-23 are champions in their own right having braced all odds to finish top in the U23 AFCON in Senegal.
Coach Samson Siasia, who helped Nigeria to a silver medal the last time the country featured in the Olympics, will need to psyche up his team very well if they are to avoid a disastrous start in Rio.
The Dream Team are going to be skippered by Chelsea’s veteran midfielder John Obi Mikel, who at age 29 is one of the three overage players in the Nigeria team.
Mikel is joined by 30-year-old starting goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, who was the senior team’s backup goal tender, and midfielder Usman Muhammed as the squad’s experienced players.
On his part, Japan Head coach Makoto Teguramori will have 21-year-old Arsenal striker Takuma Asano as the central figure of his offense. His frontline partner, Urawa Red Diamonds’ Shinzo Koroki, is one of three overage players together with defenders Hiroki Fujiharu and Tsukasa Shiotani.
For many, if the Dream Team VI can start well against the Samurai Blue, then they should at least be able to go past the group stage and challenge for any shade of medal.
Nigeria vs Japan: Head To Head Statistics (Olympics)
Mexico 1986: Nigeria 1-3 Japan
Atlanta 1996: Nigeria 2-0 Japan
Beijing 2008: Nigeria 2-1 Japan