History Appears To Favour Nigeria

Source: John VIgah, Beijing - newtimesonline.com
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NIGERIA is on the threshold of playing back their own glorious moment as they take on Argentina tomorrow in a repeat of the 1996 finale in Atlanta, USA, where Africa grabbed its first gold in Olympic football history.

It is a gut-wrenching thriller everybody here is talking about, with none daring to make any wild prediction, until it's all over at the 91,000 capacity Bird's Nest National Stadium.

Perhaps, this stems from the rich history the two teams parade in the games, and the 'typhoon-like' fashion that they swept their way to this stage.

Christened the 'Dream Team IV', the highly-motivated determined Nigerians started off their campaign with a lethargic 0-0 game against the Netherlands, accounted for Japan and USA with 2-1 results, smoked out West African neighbours Cote d'Ivoire 2-0 at the quarter final stage, before tearing into shreds the flailing challenge of Begium (4-1) in Shanghai to make its second final in 12 years.

The Belgians on the day trailed 0-1 from Olubayo Adefemi's first half strike, but any thought of stirring fight-back was shaken off by Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, who hit a brace, before Chibuzor Okonkwo completed the rout.

While Nigeria were pounding their path to the finale, the Argentines — who won all their group games: against Cote d'Ivoire (1-0), Australia (1-0) and Serbia (2-0); and proceeding to break the resolve of the Netherlands (2-1) after extra time in the quarter — also had a field day against arch rivals, Brazil. Against all expectations, the Juan Roman Riquelme-led side crushed a hapless and indisciplined Selacao team skippered by the revered Ronaldinho.

It was such vintage victory that probably left the Argentines believing that they can reverse the pangs of an over-a-decade Nigerian defeat .

"We are highly determined to win tomorrow to prove a case. We have been most criticised, but thank God we are winning the battle."

My players see tomorrow as an important day — a day to inscribe their names in gold just like their predeccessors — and probably nothing can stop them now," head coach of the 'Dream Team' told the China Daily on Wednesday.Indeed, coach Siasia has come under an avalanche of attacks by his failure to include 'big boys' — Jon Mikel Obi and Taiye Taiwo in the final squad for Beijing.

But the man who masterminded the elimination of Ghana's Black Meteors from the campaign, after notching a hard-fought barren draw in Accra, insists he picked the best team available.With the kind of morale in camp, history appears to favour the West African giants.

However, playing against a side with such intricate depth of talent, they can only be careful.

Coach Siasia should be able to map out an effective strategy to strip the likes of the eely Lionel Messi and the two-goal hero against Brazil — Sergio Aguero, of their terror. They can really be dangerous when left uncaged.

Importantly, the Nigerian fluid forwardline of Solomon Okoronkwo, Obinna Nsofor and dangerman Ogbuke, must take their chances if they really want to emulate the feat of their compatriots.

In a show of African solidarity, Ghana's biggest individual supporter, Abraham Boakye (One-Man Supporter), in a telephone interview on Wednesday, hinted Times Sports of his intention of returning to Beijing to throw his support to Nigeria.Boakye, who was earlier in Beijing for the opening ceremony, says: "This is an African affair. I would have wished it was the Black Meteors in the final, but once they are not there, what stops us from giving support to our African brothers?"After all, victory for Nigeria is victory for Africa."