Players of the national U-23 team at the Rio Games have said they would not leave Brazil without the bronze medal. Their statement comes as the Nigerians take on Honduras in the bronze medal (third-place) match of the Olympics.
The team captained by Mikel Obi had set their sights on the gold but now have to settle for bronze after they got knocked out by Germany in the semifinal match played on Wednesday in Sao Paulo. Mikel, who had spoken to reporters several times on his desire to win the Olympic gold before returning to Chelsea, said after the 2-0 loss to Germany that as professionals, they would simply adjust their mental setting and focus on the fresh challenge of winning the bronze medal.
He said, “We arrived in Brazil with our minds set on the gold but it’s painful that it has turned out this way. Every match played was with the mind-set to win it.
“We gave everything against Germany but luck wasn’t on our side. We will keep going for bronze, to make Nigeria proud.”
Coach Samson Siasia, who also regretted his team’s semifinal defeat, spoke of his determination not to leave the Olympics empty-handed.
After getting over the defeat to Germany, he said focus was now on this match. “We are going to face it with all seriousness because it is better to go home with a bronze than nothing at all. We came here with determination to win gold but we have to face the reality on ground and be very professional. We will go for it.”
The Honduras side, who very few imagined could get to this level, are also determined to leave the venue with a medal. Indeed it is a rare opportunity for the South American team and analysts feel they could be hungrier than Nigeria to win. Their 6-0 loss to Brazil in the first semifinal game has not helped their rating but like Nigeria, they believe they have recovered enough to face the fresh bronze challenge.
Their goalkeeper Luis Lopez spoke to the media here on behalf of his teammates on the bronze medal match on Saturday. Lopez said they had recovered enough from the defeat to Brazil. For them the third-place match is another final match.
The match will kick off at 1pm local time (5pm Nigeria) at Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. The match will round off in time for the final classic holding at the Maracana Stadium between Brazil and Germany.
The Olympic medal fight is not new to Siasia. In Beijing 2008, he got the silver after a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina side defeated Nigeria. He could not make it to the last stage but he and his players know they are carrying a huge burden for a country whose athletes practically fell on the way side.
Siasia, Mikel and the players are in Rio and understand how delicate the situation is. Perhaps the importance of this medal could push them above Honduras. It is just a matter of time and the match will begin.