Sports: Nigeria to Face Mali in Under-23 African Cup of Nations Opener

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Sports: Nigeria to Face Mali in Under-23 African Cup of Nations Opener

The Nigerian U-23 team will on Sunday face their Malian counter parts in their first match of U-23 African Cup of Nations. This tournament is mainly for the purpose of picking the teams that will represent Nigeria in the 2016 Olympic games – Rio 2016.

The tournament involves only eight nations split into two groups. Nigeria will be playing in group B alongside Egypt, Algeria and Mali. Group A consists of Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Tunisia.

Two teams will qualify from each group to go on straight to the semi finals.  At this point, the representatives for Africa will emerge. The tournament will run from 28 November to 12 December.

The Nigerian team has been beefed up with the inclusion of the highest goal scorer of the just conlcuded U-17 world cup Victor Osihmen and three other foreign based players. Aside from these, the rest of the team are made up of home based players.

The team list is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Yusuf Mohammed (Kano Pillars), Emmanuel Iwu (Heartland), Emmanuel Daniel (Enugu Rangers)

Defenders: Zaharadeen Bello (Kano Pillars), Seun Olubayo (Sunshine Stars), Chizoba Amaefule (Dolphins), Ebuka Iroha (Diamond Football Academy), Sincere Seth (Supreme Court FC), Seun Oduduwa (Nath Boys)

Midfielders: Azubuike Okechukwu (Yeni Matalatyaspor, Turkey), Godspower Aniefiok (Kano Pillars), Ndifreke Effiong (Abia Warriors), Usman Mohammed (FC Taraba),Tiongoli Tobara (Bayelsa United), Bature Yaro (Nasarawa United), Oghenekaro Etebo, Stanley Dimgba (both Warri Wolves)

Forward: Taiwo Awoniyi (FSV Frankfurt, Germany), Victor Osimhen (Ultimate Strikers Academy), Junior Ajayi (CS Sfaxien, Tunisia), Kufre Ebong (Warri Wolves).

Coach Samson Siasia is under pressure on two fronts. First his mother who was kidnapped about 2 weeks ago has yet to be returned. He is trying not to be distracted by this according to Timi Ebikagboro the team’s media officer.

He said “The coach is under stress following the kidnap of his mother. But he is not allowing it to dis tract him. He is rallying round the boys for a good outing on Sunday against Mali,”

On the second front, Coach Siasia is under pressure to perform with the U-23 team. His current record with the U-23 team is the silver medal with the Mikel set. The worst he can do is to equal his record. However, he first has to qualify the team from Africa before trying to conquer the world.

As is the case at this stage of the game, big players in big clubs are usually not available until the team has qualified for the main event. A good example is the failure of Isaac Success to make the team having  not been released by his club Granada of Spain.

Nigerians are expecting a good outing in this tournament.

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