When the D’Tigers take to the court to play Brazil in their last group match at Rio 2016 Olympics, they will know that they are on the verge of history, and will ink their names in Nigerian Basketball folklore.
No African team has ever made the quarter-finals of the Basketball event, not even the dominant Angola on the continent, but Nigeria is just one match away from achieving that.
Having lost their first opening three matches to Argentina, Lithuania and Spain respectively, D’Tigers stunned Croatia in their fourth match at the tournament to win their second match ever at the Olympics.
It was a victory not many saw coming, although it must be said that D’Tigers have improved from their previous matches, and put up a good defensive display to withstand a late rally from the Croats who pressed for a comeback.
Having not gone down 4-0, D’Tigers will now have to beat Brazil in their last match and hope things go their way in the one involving Lithuania and Croatia.
Brazil needs this game as much as Nigeria does in order not be one of the two countries crashing out from the group stages. So this game is going to be electric and both teams will be fired up.
The host country will have the support of the crowd and every point they make will be huge and cheered for, which is why Nigeria must not lose their heads if they are to come out with the win.
Brazil plays to literally the last second as was seen in the match against Argentina which was forced to Overtime which Argentina eventually won by 111-107 points. So they are not ones to give up.
However, Nigeria are playing and now shooting better through Michael Umeh and Josh Akognon, and will need these Point Guards to step up if they are win.
Quick Facts about Brazil:
They have made 15 appearances at the Olympics and have won Bronze on three occasions in 1948, 1960, 1964.
Also they have twice won the FIBA World Cup in 1959 & 1963. Although all these accolades are over four decades ago, it’s a pedigree that can’t be overlooked.
Key players for either team:
Has to be Leandro Barbosa. He knows how to inspire a late rally and a good option from the bench. Watch out for Hilario Nene who made 24 points and 11 rebounds against Argentina.
Ike Diogu is leading by example, especially with his defensive rebounds, Akognon and Umeh will be very important for Nigeria and will need to be at their very best with their outside shots.
Potential quarterfinal opponents:
Nigeria will face USA if they make it through to the last eight, a team everybody wants to avoid. However, who wouldn’t want a quarterfinal berth regardless of who you are playing?
* Brazil- Magnano Ruben
* Nigeria – Will Voigt
Place to watch:
You can watch the game live on SuperSports Channel SS9 (for Nigerian viewers) from 6.05pm -7.55pm