The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will have a Glorious touch this August, with National Soccer League-era striker Samson Siasia taking the helm of Nigeria at the major sporting event.
Siasia played 22 games for Perth Glory in 1997 and 1998, scoring three goals for the club. The Nigerian striker scored 16 times in 51 appearances for his national team, after a journeyman career that also saw him play in France, Belgium, and Saudi Arabia's top divisions. Upon retirement, Siasia moved on to a career in coaching; including two stints at the helm of the Nigerian national team and multiple roles at youth level.
The 48-year-old's team have been impressive under his tutelage; "The Super Eagles" went undefeated through the U23 African Cup of Nations to qualify, beating Algeria 2-1 in the final in December 2015. This was the first time Nigeria won the tournament at U23 level.
The Super Eagles have a tough assignment to get out of Group B, facing Japan, Colombia and Sweden in the group stages. The draw could also see Nigeria drawn against Brazil in the knockout stage, who included FC Barcelona star Neymar in their squad for the Games. To add even further difficulty, the squad will be missing starlet Kelechi Iheanacho, who posted 14 goals and 5 assists across 35 matches for Manchester City last season. Despite losing Iheanacho & Arsenal's Alex Iwobi, Siasia has named Watford's Odion Ighalo and Chelsea's John Obi Mikel in his squad.
However, there's no reason Siasia's side should be doubted as a gold medal contender leading into the 2016 Olympic Games. Siasia lead his Nigeria side to the Silver Medal in 2008, falling 1-0 in the Gold Medal Match to Argentina in front of over 89,000 people. Argentina were arguably the strongest ever assembled football team to feature at an Olympic games (see squad below). That tournament also saw Siasia's Nigeria post a 4-1 thrashing against Belgium, sending Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembele and Kevin Mirallas spiralling out of the tournament.
It wasn't the first time the Super Eagles impressed on the international stage. Nigeria's long history of strong Olympics performance dates back to their famous Atlanta 1996 Gold Medal triumph that included an upset 4-3 golden goal victory over Brazil. Nigerian legends Nwankwo Kanu & Jay Jay Okocha inspired the Super Eagles to upstage a Brazilian side featuring Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo - possibly Nigeria's most famous win. The team went on to defeat Hernan Crespo's Argentina 3-2 in another exhilirating final, becoming the first African team to win Gold at the Olympics.
It's a challenge that will surely excite the ex-Glory striker and with a plethora of major upsets achieved through Olympic history, you can be sure Nigeria will be a force to reckon with in Rio de Janerio this August.