U-23 Eagles One Step From Rio Olympics
Nigeria U-23 team is now one step away from qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, after booking their passage to the semifinal at the on-going Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Senegal yesterday.
The Coach Samson Siasia-led team played 0-0 with Algeria in Dakar to grab five points in three games. The second group match between Mali and Egypt ended 1-0 in favour of the Malians, though, they crashed out of the race after losing two games to Nigeria and Algeria. The Pharaohs also waved goodbye to the championship.
With five points, Nigeria finished second in the group behind Algeria and will face the host nation, Senegal, in the semifinal, while Algeria play South Africa.
Three countries will pick automatic ticket to Rio Olympics, while the team that finishes fourth in Senegal will have to go for a play-off next year.
The U-23 Eagles played a more organised football in yesterday’s game compared to their earlier games, where they squandered their lead to struggle to a 3-2 win against Mali and 2-2 against Egypt.
The Algerians were also the Dream Team’s final group phase opponents at the inaugural Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Morocco four years ago. Nigeria won that tie 4-1, but went out of the tournament having lost her first two matches to Morocco and Senegal
President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, commended the players and their handlers for the performance yesterday.
Speaking with The Guardian on phone shortly after the game, Pinnick said that he was excited the U-23 Eagles made it to the semi, just as he expressed hope that the team would beat Senegal to pick one of the tickets to Rio.
It would be recalled that the Nigerians boxed themselves into a tight corner following their 2-2 draw with Junior Pharaohs of Egypt in a game they led 2-0 in the first half.