Dream Team picks Olympic bronze medal, make history

(August 21, 2016) Nigeria’s Dream Team, the 1996 Olympic football champions, are now the first African country to complete an Olympic medal sweep having won a silver medal in Beijing in 2008 and beating hard fighting Honduras to clinch the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Aminu Umar had hit both posts before Sadiq Umar scored from close range in the 34th minute after captain Mikel John Obi’s fine run.

Four minutes after the break, Mikel’s strike was half-punched away by Lopez and it fell for Aminu Umar, the Turkey-based forward, to calmly finish inside the box.

Sadiq Umar got his second and his fourth of the tournament in the 56th minute to set the Eagles in flight and put them 3-0 up.

But Anthony Lozano pulled a goal back after 70 minutes, and Honduras’ late fight-back was firmly on when Marcelo Pereira scored with four minutes left on the clock.

The Dream Team VI held off their opponents’ late rally to win the country’s first medal of the Rio games.

Victory gave Nigeria – beaten by Germany in the semi-finals – their place in history, by winning all three men’s football Olympic medals.

At Atlanta in 1996, they became the first African team to win the gold medal.

They also finished runners-up at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to take silver, where current under-23 coach Samson Siasia also coached the ‘Dream Team’ in China.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has congratulated the U23 National Team for winning bronze.

Victory meant Nigeria has now won gold, silver and bronze from the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament over the past 20 years. They scooped gold in 1996 and picked silver eight years ago, also under Samson Siasia.

NFF also blasted former goalkeeper Peterside Idah for a mischievous post on his tweeter handle before the match, suggesting the Federation wanted to ‘hijack’ the donation to the team by Japanese plastic surgeon, Dr. Katsuya Takasu.

NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, said: “His message was a lie, an atrocious false alarm before an important match. I had exchanged correspondence with the Honourable Minister on the issue of the donation and we agreed that there was need for caution. The Minister said to me that he read the donation in the papers and had expressed serious concern. I also received a mail from the NFF Integrity Officer who expressed very serious concern with this kind of donation.

“I got in touch with the Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil and the Honourable Minister to say that whatever had to be done should be done after the Bronze Medal Match, to avoid any distractions. The NFF may be having financial challenges, but I assure you nobody in the Federation is interested in that money.

“If we get the Government’s go-ahead to collect the money, no official of the NFF will be involved even in the collection. The money will be received directly by the team.”

Pinnick added that the status of Nigeria as a sovereign nation, and the integrity of Nigeria football, is bigger than such financial gains. “If we had rushed to collect that kind of money and hand over to the players, the same people who are condemning the NFF now would have said worse things.

“There are matters in the football world today that FIFA and the various confederations frown on. We are very much aware of that”.

Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, also celebrated with Dream Team VI for winning the bronze medal and called on sports authorities in the country to embark on honest reappraisal.

Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, also congratulated Nigeria for the feat achieved by the team.

He extolled the doggedness of the Coach Samson Siasia-led boys and their ability to bounce back from defeat to claim a bronze medal for the country.

Saraki said: “I am excited about this last minute redemption of the nation’s pride by the Dream Team VI. The game against Honduras was no doubt a make or mar cracker. But we are happy to have emerged victorious. Thanks to the team and their technical crew.

“You have made the country proud by winning the third place match against all odds and we are proud of you and your superlative outing. All those who prayed and supported the team to the end also deserve special commendation. We were not disappointed,” he said.

Saraki noted that the fact that the nation’s delegation did not perform as expected in the Rio Olympics Games billed to end on Sunday should not be a reason to engage in a blame game. Rather, he urged sports authorities in the country to immediately put their house in order and ensure that the country’s athletes have better preparations for the next Olympics and other major sports meets in the world.

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