We all knew that Samson Siasia and his team were flawed and we did not really think they could win gold – well the prayer warriors can say otherwise.
Why did we think they could not win? Because most of the time, the earth gives you a result commensurate with what was invested. So you must ask, what was invested in this team that could have been commensurate with a gold medal?
Like the entire Nigerian contingent at the Rio Olympics, the football team were there not because they had a cogent plan of getting on the medals’ podium but because Nigeria had to be represented.
Though the Olympics credo says participation itself is golden, we all know there is more to gold than mere attendance.
Siasia did not have a suitable defensive pairing in Brazil but we got away with that major cog until the ninth minute against Germany in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
This is not saying that William Troost-Ekong and Sincere Seth did not give their all – they did, but they could only give what they had. Seth is by nature a fullback but has played in Rio as a centre back.
As fate would have it (Nigerians love this), the two best players for the team – Oghenekaro Etebo and Azubuike Okechukwu were missing from the midfield that played against Germany.
And who was the replacement for Okechukwu? Ndifreke Udo. This is not casting aspersion on Udo’s person or ability but he cannot in anyway be compared to Okechukwu.
Sadiq Umar chose the semifinal to become the ugly duckling. From the first match against Japan, he had shown all the qualities of a top target man and at 18, the future looked so bright but against Germany, he could not even accept a gift from the opponent’s goalkeeper.
The ball did not stick, he could not pass – he was simply overwhelmed by the occasion and he had to make way in the second half.
I also believe that the absence of Okechukwu should have necessitated the deployment of Mikel Obi to his Chelsea position of defensive midfield.
Though he really tried – and that is saying something for Mikel in a Nigerian shirt — but he could have been more suitable playing in front of the defence. His authority, calmness and know-how would have greatly benefitted the likes of Udo and Seth.
But in the final analysis, I do not think even with the Suwon tournament and the USA training camp that the Dream Team VI could have gone all the way. It would have been an injustice on those teams that adequately planned for gold and spent time and money preparing adequately. We can continue dreaming!
For now, Sports Minister Dalung should promptly return home now that he has travelled and “supported” his team.
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