The bumpy journey of the Nigeria U-23 team to the 2016 Rio Olympics will continue on Wednesday as the Dream Team VI battle against Senegal in the first semi final of the ongoing Africa U-23 Championships.
A shaky win in their first outing against Mali and then back-to-back draws against the North African duo of Egypt and Algeria means Nigeria is very much in the race for one of the automatic tickets seeded for Africa to compete in the men’s football event in next year’s Olympic Games.
Interestingly, Senegal are the favourites coming into Wednesday; rightly because of their flawless display in the group phase and also the home-advantage factor.
Luckily for the hosts, Senegal, they will have the full complement of their squad for the semi final game while Nigeria will lose the services of the captain Azubuike Okechukwu due to accumulated cards.
Exciting winger Stanley Dimgba is also ruled out of the game and probably the remainder of the tournament due to injury while Taiwo Awonyi who has not really impressed at this tournament is also out injured.
For Coach Samson Siasia who earlier confessed that he would have love to avoid the Senegal team at this point, there is no going back for his team as the nation is banking heavily on them to deliver.
He stated: “We are not going back home empty –handed; it’s no retreat, no surrender. We have to get ourselves ready for tomorrow’s game; it’s going to be a difficult one. It’s going to be eleven players against eleven, so we have our chances to qualify.”
Among other things, Siasia assured that his team, particularly the defence have learnt their lessons in the group games and would give their best to beat the hosts to progress to the final and by extension qualification for the Olympic Games.
“We have learnt our lessons. Two games in which the first half looked good and the last half didn’t. We made our corrections and you can see from how we played in the last game.”
Wednesday’s clash will take place at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor, where Siasia scored Nigeria’s first goal in a 2-1 defeat of host Senegal in the opening match of the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations.
Goalkeepers: Emmanuel Daniel, Yusuf Mohammed, Emmanuel Iwu
Defenders: Amaefule Chizoba, Zaharadeen Bello, Segun Oduduwa, Sincere Seth, Chukwuebuka Iroha
Midfielders: Bature Yaro, Seun Olulayo, Ndifreke Effiong , Azubuike Okechukwu, Stanley Dimgba, Tiongoli Tonbara, Usman Mohammed
Attackers: Kufre Ebong ,Taiwo Awoniyi, Junior Ajayi, Godspower Enefiok, Oghenekaro Etebo, Victor Osimhen,
Goalkeepers: Mouhamed Mbaye, Pape Abdoulaye Dieng, Pape Seydou Ndiaye
Defenders: Adama Mbengue, Alhassane Sylla, Elhadji Pape Djibril Diaw, Ibrahima Diedhiou, Modou Makhtar Diagne, Moussa Wague
Midfielders: Abdoulaye Ba, Boubacar Cissokho, Nestor Pamipi Mendy, Ousseynou Thioune, Samba Ndiaye, Sidy Sarr
Attackers: Cheikhou Dieng, Ibrahima Sory Keita, Isma?la Sarr, Mouhamadou Habibou Diallo, Moussa Seydi, Sylvain Badji