Europe and Africa are set to collide on Tuesday as Belgium and Nigeria clash in Shanghai for a place in the final of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. Though few predicted that either team would progress this far, less surprising is the fact that their final opponents will be either Argentina or Brazil.
Rank outsiders before the tournament began, Belgium have gone from strength to strength since a narrow opening-game defeat to Brazil; the Diables Rouges even edged out a heavily favoured Italy side in the last eight. Just as impressive has been Nigeria's performance in the competition to date. Making light work of a tough draw, the Super Eagles topped a group containing the Netherlands, USA and Japan. In an all-African quarter-final, Nigeria defeated Côte d'Ivoire 2-0 to set up Tuesday's semi-final showdown against Belgium. Twelve years after winning the Olympic Football Tournament at the Atlanta Games, the Nigerians are starting to dream of gold again.
Having been unable to call upon experienced defender Vincent Kompany since the first game, Belgium coach Jean Francois De Sart will also now have to do without Thomas Vermaelen following the centre-back's red card against the Italians. Both defences, though, are likely to have their hands full in an encounter featuring two of the tournament's leading scorers. Nigeria's Victor Obinna and Belgium's Moussa Dembele have three strikes apiece and both will be aiming to displace four-goal Giuseppe Rossi of Italy at the top of the scorers' charts.
Having previously managed to avoid each other at international tournaments, these two sides will be meeting for the first time in the Shanghai showdown. Nigeria have made the final four of FIFA tournaments twelve times already, and Tuesday's encounter will be their second semi-final at a Men's Olympic Football Tournament following their success at Atlanta 1996.
The duel: Peter Odemwingie (NGA) and Moussa Dembele (BEL)
Lokomotiv Moscow striker Peter Odemwingie was born on 15 July 1981 and one day and six years later, AZ Alkmaar's Moussa Dembele came along. Goals win games and both Samson Siasia and Jean-Francois De Sart will be looking to their pacy forwards to take the chances that may come their way in Shanghai. The pair impressed against Côte d'Ivoire and Italy respectively, so with the pair in good form, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on Tuesday night.
"We came here to China to achieve something at the Olympic Football Tournament. We knew we wouldn't find it easy in the first few games, but we're getting stronger all the time," Belgium coach Jean Francois De Sart.
"Back home, everybody knows what this team is capable of. After picking up gold in 1996, everyone's waiting anxiously for us to repeat the feat but we still haven't won anything yet," Nigeria captain Victor Obinna.