Nigerians celebrate, as U-23 Eagles pick Rio Olympics ticket
Beat host Senegal 1-0, Dalung, Pinnick excited
It was another celebration time for Nigerians yesterday, as the national U-23 team ended the dominance of host, Senegal, at the 2015 African U-23 Nations Cup.
Apart from winning the game 1-0 to hit the final, the Coach Samson Siasia-led team picked an automatic ticket to next year’s summer Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
A mix-up in the 77th-minute between the Senegalese goalkeeper Seydou and his defender Thioune let in Kufre Ebong, but before he could shoot into an empty goal, the Thioune held on to the ball to earn Nigeria a penalty. Thioune also got a red card for his troubles, before Nigeria’s skipper for the day, Oghenekaro Etebo, scored from the resultant penalty kick.
It was a day the Senegalese will live to remember, as they wasted an early opportunity to go ahead in the first half of game.
Nigeria’s goalie, Emmanuel Daniel had committed a blunder in the dying minute of the first half, when he fouled Senegalese attacker, Dieng Chekhou, inside his own box. Daniel turned hero by making amends, as he saved Sory Keita’s penalty moments later.
Danial also made a good save in the 36th minute when he held a downward header from inside the 18-yard box. The Enugu Rangers goalkeeper also pulled off a big save in the 13th minute when he came face-to-face with Keita.
The Nigerians also wasted their chances to get on the score sheet earlier, especially in the 42nd minute, when Junior Ajayi put the ball through the legs of the Senegal goalkeeper and captain, but Kufre Ebong was denied on the goal line by a neat tackle by a Senegalese defender.
Golden Eaglets hero at the last U-17 World Cup in Chile, Victor Osimhen, played in yesterday’s game.
Nigeria will now meet the winner of the second semi-final between South Africa and Algeria in Saturday’s final.
Though the U-23 Eagles have made their way to Rio 2016 Olympics, some Nigerian soccer fans who watched the game yesterday were of the view that Siasia still has some distances to cover, if the team must make a good representation for Africa in Brazil.
The U-23 Eagles missed out at London 2012 Olympic Games and the national female team, Super Falcons, had already been knocked of Rio 2016 Games, following their defeat by Equatorial Guinea earlier in the year.
Three countries will pick automatic tickets for Rio, while the fourth placed country will have to go through a play off next year.