Rio 2016: Dream Team faces Japan amid shoddy travel plans

The Dream Team VI will begin their quest for glory in the first ever Olympics to be held on South American soil when they take on the Samurai Blue of Japan at the 41,000 capacity Arena da Amazonian in Manaus, Brazil.

Rio 2016: Dream Team faces Japan amid shoddy travel plans
Dream Team VI Coach Samson Siasia leads the team as they landed in Brazil

Both sides are continental giants given that the Samurai Blue of Japan won the U-23 Asian competition while the Dream Team VI emerged champions of the African edition last year.

The two continental giants will enter into the fray for the second match of Group B. Needless to say, the sporting engagement between both sides dates back to 1968 Olympics competition in Mexico ‘86 where the Blue Samurais had the upper hand in the first round. Subsequently, in Atlanta '96 and Beijing 2012 witnessed the Nigerian U-23 side seeing off the Japanese challenge.

Nigeria's Olympic Team Captain John Mikel Obi finally relieved to arrived in Brazil

Going into this fixture and the competition as a whole, the Nigerian U-23 side will be hoping to evoke the unforgettable spirit of Atlanta '96 in the face of poor funding and ill preparation. The Team only landed in Brazil less than six hours before their opening game.

Coach Samson Siasia will be hoping to rally his team to success with help from veteran midfielder John Mikel Obi (29) and shot-stopper, Daniel Akpeyi (30).

Rising star, Oghenekaro Etebo (20) is also expected to bring his attacking brilliance to the Nigerian midfield. Undoubtedly, the challenge of the Japanese team will not be underestimated as the gaffer of the Nigerian side noted after the Olympic draws in Maracana, Brazil.

"Japan has come of age in this kind of tournament and they can spring up surprise if they are underrated” Siasia noted.

The best achievement so far for Japan was their fourth place finish at the 2012 Olympics held in Beijing and they will be looking forward to better that record with services from Hiroki Fujiharu (27), Tsukasa Shiotori (27) and Arsenal's latest Asian acquisition, Takuma Asano (21)

Definitely, the Japanese football team will be full of intensity from the blast of the whistle even as their primary show of strength will be about their tenacity to defend. The African U-23 champions on their own part will be expected to present an organised and disciplined display without sparing their high level of resilience, as that has been the major feature of their journey so far.

Certainly for football fans, this important opening fixture between the Dream Team VI and the Samurai Blue of Japan brings yet more brilliance into sports mega-event- the Olympics.