They are a step away from the final match of the football event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and they believe they will get there.The U-23 Eagles defeated Denmark 2-0 at the Fonte Nova Arena, Salvador on Saturday, with Mikel opening scores in the first half of the game. Now, Siasia and his boys want to get a step further by beating Germany on Wednesday to qualify for the final of the competition, which they last reached at the Beijing 2008 edition of the games.
Speaking after the match, Siasia said the team was gradually overcoming their deficiencies in the defence, adding that they have to be at their best when they confront a German team that has scored 14 goals in two matches.
“Yesterday we were worried about the defence, but the boys came out and played very well. We played against a good Denmark team. The guys have to be applauded for the performance and scoring two goals,” he said.
He revealed that the team was not dwelling on the difficulties in Brazil due to financial and travel issues, adding that the situation have inspired the team and made them stronger:“We all know it is not easy, nobody wants to be in the situation we were a week ago when we were still in Atlanta. But your circumstances should not determine what goals you set for yourself and what you want to achieve.
“It was very difficult circumstances. We struggled to get here. But there is a oneness, a team spirit and a willingness to overcome.“The boys are together and they want to make sure that they succeed in spite of all the troubles. I am very proud of what they have done together.”
The coach will not be drawn into thinking about Brazil when they still have to navigate the German challenge. He added, however, “We saw what they did to the Danish team (Brazil won 4-0 in the group stage). They are a good side. They did not start well, but the most important thing is how you end.
“We still have one game to go so we are not worrying about Brazil now. If we get to the final together then we will see what we can do. I am sure we will play a good game.“We are here to win. You cannot come this far, go through what we went though, then just give up. We will do everything we can to make sure we get the gold medal,” he said.
Awed by the performance of the U-23 Eagles in this competition, some neutrals have tipped Nigeria to win the World Cup in the near future, but Siasia knows that it would take more than the talents available to achieve that.
He said: “… I think if African countries were better prepared they might have a shot at the World Cup. But the problems are always the same thing and it’s not good trying to compete with having problems. Hopefully we might find a way to change the way we prepare and have a shot. African countries won’t win the World Cup having these problems.”
To John Obi Mikel, who has been acting more like the financial backbone of the team, getting to the semifinals is an honour that every footballer would cherish forever. He thanked the Brazilian fans for their support, saying, “I think from the first day that we got here, from when we played Japan in the first game, the Brazilian fans have been behind us and supported us all the time.
“Even when we were losing 2-0 to Colombia in the group the fans were supporting us. It is one of the greatest feelings in football if you are giving the fans what they want and I am very happy for the team today.
“My performance was good, the team performance was good. We came out and did exactly what the coach asked us to do and executed the game plan perfectly. We are very happy to be in the semifinal.”
Mikel was not surprised that Nigeria have reached the semifinal even with their problems before the Games.He said: “When we were in Atlanta we knew the team we had and we had a talented bunch of players. That’s why we just wanted to get to Brazil and kick-start our tournament.
“It was a bit frustrating coming down here, but while we were in Atlanta we knew that we had a good shot at getting to the final or winning the tournament. With the problems we have had, getting to this stage is just absolutely amazing and we just have to keep going.”