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Olympics: Siasia Gives Deadline, Dares Zlatan, Won’t Rule Out Mikel

Nigeria U-23s head coach Samson Siasia has given home-based players invited for the team’s camping for the Olympics Monday as deadline to report to camp.

Speaking after the team’s training session at the practice pitch of the Abuja National Stadium, Siasia said he does not want to make the mistake of the past when players who had been pencilled down by the coaching crew were not available when needed.

“I want to work with only the players on the ground, and to get them to the shape I want,” Siasia told the Nigeria Football Federation official website on Thursday.

On the issue of other teams in Nigeria’s Group B already announcing plans to include very experienced over-aged players, Siasia said the technical crew and the players are not scared of any individual player, but would rather bother about the quality of opposition at the Olympics football event.

“Yes, I have read of plans by Sweden to include someone like Zlatan Ibramovich as one of their over-aged players for the Games. Good for them, but as far as we are concerned, there is nothing like fear,” Siasia said. “For us, we are trying to put up a team, and that will determine which players we are going to bring. We have played against players of stronger calibre than Zlatan. We have played against Lionel Messi and Di Maria and others.

“We would rather think of the fact that they have a strong team tha‎t will play against us, and not individual players. I don’t want to jump around and start mentioning names, and later if those players are not available, we would be disappointed. So, I have to be sure of what I am doing and when that time comes we will release the names.”

On the issue of players like Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi showing interest in playing for Nigeria at the Olympics, Siasia said: “I guess that because Mikel missed out the last time, he wants to make up for it. Not only that, the last couple of games he has played for the Super Eagles, he has been playing very well, and if he wants to be part of the team, of course he is welcome, but as I said we have to look at the positions we really, really need people. We are not going to select players because they play for the Super Eagles or because they are still under the age bracket. They have to compete with those players who actually qualified the team for the Olympics.”

Siasia confirmed that he has sent a provisional list of 60 players for the Games. According to him, “if your name is not on that list, then no Olympics for you. That’s why we put as many names as we can, we don’t know the Europe -based players whose clubs would release for the Games.”

The U-23 coach said he smiled and stood near Brazil coach Dunga after the draw at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro: “I told myself this is the man I would be playing against in the Final Match!”

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