Apparently mindful of the herculean task that lies ahead, Nigeria’s national Under-23 soccer side, the Dream Team, have resolved to shed their totalitarian image for the cavalier when play away to Congo on Sunday in a decisive African U-23 Championship qualifier. The African U-23 tournament, scheduled to hold in Senegal in September, will produce the continent’s three representatives to next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When the Dream Team played host to the Congolese a forthnight ago in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, poor marksmanship on the part of the Nigerian players ensured their opponents escaped with a favourable 2-1 defeat, with the Red Devils now needing just a lone goal victory to eliminate their Nigerian counterparts. Revealing the Dream Team’s game plan shortly before they departed Nigeria for Congo yesterday, coach Samson Siasia said the mission to Pointe Noire, venue of Sunday’s match, is to play attacking football.
“We will attack because we want to win in Congo, not avoid defeat,” said Siasia. “Don’t forget that the Super Eagles have gone there to win before, so it’s not impossible. “I love big games, and I’m not shy to say so. This is with every sense of modesty. Pointe Noire is another tough session, but I look forward to it.”
The Dream Team is enamoured by the fact that faced with a similar situation few months ago, when they needed outright victory against Zambia in an All Africa Games qualifying game in played in Lusaka, the Nigeria side beat their hosts 2-1 courtesy of a Taiwo Awoniyi brace.
“I have been in difficult situations with the Dream Team before and have always emerged victorious,” Siasia said. “It will not be easy; nothing good in life comes easy. But we will give it our very best shot and return from Pointe Noire with victory.”
Meawhile, Congo coach Claude Le Roy, believes his team can claim another notable victim having eliminated former Olympic bronze medalists Ghana in the previous round by winning the second leg 1-0 and a penalty shootout 5-4 in Pointe- Noire. “We were lucky to only lose 2-1 in Nigeria,” admits the 67-yearold Frenchman. “But it is going to be far more difficult for Nigeria on an artificial pitch in Pointe-Noire.