Nigeria’s 2-0 defeat to Colombia in the last group game of the Olympic men’s football tournament meant a showdown with Scandinavian giants Denmark in the quarterfinal.
Ordinarily, this would have been just another match for the coach Samson Siasia tutored Under-23, side but this time out, there is a new twist.
Nigerians will never forget Ebbe Sand and the Danish squad who put Nigeria to the sword in the second round game of the 1998 World Cup.
With the Super Eagles showing some real swagger in the group stage, beating Spain and Bulgaria, many felt that Denmark would be a stroll in the park.
It was not meant to be.
Denmark smashed Nigeria 4-1 in one of the Eagles’ worst ever defeats in the World Cup. In fact, the Super Eagles have never conceded that many goals in a single game at the World Cup.
To add more spice to Wednesday’s encounter, Nigeria and Denmark met at the Suwon Tournament in June 2016. It was a scandalous end to the game for the men in green, a result no one saw coming.
The Danes ran Nigerian ragged.
The Dream Team VI lost the game 6-2, and it could have been worse than that but for some comical finishing by Denmark. Samson Siasia and his wards had no answer to the superior fire-power of the Danish side.
Erhun Obanor gifted Denmark a penalty early in the game but goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel stood tall to deny Nicolai Brock-Madsen.
But it went downhill from there. Obanor scored an own goal while trying to clear a cross as Emil Larsen [above] scored a hattrick before Patrick da Silva and Emiliano Marcondes added theirs for a 6-0 scoreline.
Two late goals by Abdulrahman added some respect to the scoreline, but conceding six goals did not a show the stuff of champions from Nigeria.
That result will definitely resonate in the minds of the players and officials who will hope to pay Denmark back with equal measure.
Denmark finished behind Brazil in group A to set a date with Nigeria, who topped group B despite losing 2-0 to Colombia.
Despite the issues associated with the team arriving hours before kick-off of the first group game against Japan, the Dream Team weathered the storm and defeated Japan 5-4 in a game full of attacking verve with an equal measure of calamitous defending.
A much improved second group game saw the team defeating Sweden 1-0 courtesy of a Sadiq Umar headed goal.
Though Denmark was annihilated 4-0 by hosts Brazil in their last group game, the Europeans will prove a handful for Nigeria, as they are very robust, compact and they play as a unit.
Samson Siasia rested five players for the Colombia game in a bid to give others a chance to shine. That did not work out as expected, and to make matters worse, the medics will be sweating on the fitness of star man Oghenekaro Etebo.
The nippy forward was stretched out of the field in the latter stages of the last group game against Colombia, and is a doubt for the Denmark clash.
Striker Junior Ajayi, who has not played any part in the Olympics so far, is also on the treatment table and in a race against time to play against Denmark.
Nigeria will indeed go out on Saturday to try and bury the ghosts of past defeats by the Scandinavians, and take themselves one step closer to the gold medal.
Other quarterfinal matches will see Portugal take on Germany, Brazil will clash with Colombia, and Honduras, who have surprised many at the games, will battle for a semifinal with South Korea.