Rio 2016: Siasia Picks Ighalo, Mikel, Akpeyi as Overage Players
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Nigeria’s Dream Team VI Coach, Samson Siasia, has finally penned down Odion Ighalo, John Mikel Obi and goal keeper Daniel Akpeyi as the three overage players for the football event at the Olympic Games that hold in Rio, in August.
THISDAY checks at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) revealed last night that Siasia settled for the players because of established history of long ties among other pressing exigencies.
Godfrey Oboabona, who was also one of Siasia ‘s prime targets for the overage picks, ultimately did not make the final cut because his Turkish club, Çaykur Rizespor insisted he would not be released for the Olympic football event.
In addition, THISDAY also learnt that Siasia’s failure to land Oboabona, has prompted the coach to approach Kenneth Omeruo, who also plays in Turkey for Kasımpaşa, as one of the players to battle for the final team list.
The central defender is expected to provide some steel for the Nigerian rear guard at Rio where they will confront Colombia, Japan and Sweden in the group stage.
Omeruo, whose appearances for the senior team have bogged by injuries, is eligible to make the team as he still within the Under-23 age limit.
The Dream Team VI will camp in USA from where they will travel to Mexico City for a friendly match with the Mexico Under-23 team on July 2. They will later play two additional warm up matches, first against the US team in Atlanta on July 16, and later against Honduras on July 27.
Though Siasia plans to travel with 21 foreign-based and six home-based players on the tour, it was gathered he is yet to get firm guarantee from the two out-field over age players that they will be part of the US training camp.
Doubts surround the availability of Ighalo, who plays for Watford as the camping period will clash with the resumption of the English Premier League pre-season ahead of the start of the campaign in August after a long end of the season holiday.
The Mikel situation is also dicey as he may consider skipping the US camp altogether in order to convince new Chelsea coach Antonio Conte that he is still a key player that the Italian can count on at Stamford Bridge.
NFF sources revealed last night that though Mikel has been cleared by Chelsea’s Technical Director Mike Emenalo to join the Nigerian Olympic team, he is still waiting for the final word from Conte before departing to America.