By James Agberebi:
Nigeria captain, Mikel Obi, has stated that winning the men's football gold at the on-going Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be the crowning glory of his professional football career.
Mikel, who was on target for the U-23 Eagles in their 2-0 quarter-final win againt Denmark, will lead his side against Germany in Wednesday's semi-final clash.
"It’s going to mean a lot," Mikel told FIFA.com.
"It’s going to mean the world to me. It’s going to be the icing on the cake. As much as anyone, I want to win.
"This is what it means to me no matter what I’ve won. I think winning with this team is going to be amazing. I’m hoping and praying for that."
The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner with the Super Eagles said the secret of the Olympic Eagles has been togetherness and also their offensive style of play which has seen them progress to the semi-finals.
"Sheer determination, effort, togetherness and unity in the team. It’s been absolutely amazing," the Chelsea star added.
"Also the team is built to play offensive football and to express ourselves and make sure we create chances and score goals. I think it’s hunger and willingness to help each other on the pitch, to run for each other. We know exactly what to do when we play. I think that’s very important and that’s exactly what’s got us here."
On his role in the team as an attacking midfielder and his experience so far in his first Olympics, Mikel said:"I grew up playing in a more offensive position, but what’s happened has happened. I’ve been playing holding midfield for 11 years now.
"But every time I come back to the national team, I play more offensively. I always try and make sure I make the team play and create chances. I enjoy it. It’s great to play in that position again.
"It’s been absolutely amazing (his first Olympics experience). It’s been an experience that has reminded me of when I started playing with the U-17s and U-20s.
"I’ve enjoyed my time here and the experience has been very good. Playing with these guys, they’re great players. The energy, power and pace they bring to the game is just different. I’m very happy to be in this team and to be a part of this great experience."
On his role as skipper of the U-23 Eagles and how he has impacted on the players, Mikel said: "I’m giving them a bit more knowledge that they’ll need in these kinds of games, because these have been high quality games.
"These guys look up a lot to me a lot, so I have to lead by example. I try to make sure I run as much as I can, so they will see that and run as much as they can! You have to lead by example.
"As long as I keep doing that and as long as we keep winning, for me the team is important. Individual performances are good, but as long as the team is playing well and winning, I’m very happy with that."
And on the thought of playing the gold medal match inside the Maracana stadium: "One step at a time. To be honest, I haven’t thought about it yet. I don’t see past Wednesday. The Germans are a very good side, so we have to make sure we do our job.
"With this team, we don’t concentrate much on what the other teams do. We concentrate more on what we can give and offer on that day. The game before is gone. It’s about what we can produce at that time and in those 90 minutes or however long we’re going to play for. We always try to concentrate on that, and I think we’ve done that so far, so I don’t think we’re going to change."Unblock the FIFA World Cup with ExpressVPN the #1 Trusted Name in VPN