BY AKINWUMI OJO
Quest of the national U-23 team to play at the Rio 2016 Olympics will be greatly enhanced today if they record their second victory at the ongoing CAF U-23 AFCON in Senegal.
The Nigerians are on top of Group B after running over Mali 3-2 in their opening game and will be guaranteed a place if they can achieve a similar feat over the Young Pharaohs of Egypt.
The Egyptians are joint second with fellow North Africans, Algeria who forced them to a 1-1 draw in the first match of the group.
Though elated with the victory of the Nigeria team in the tie with Malians, purists were however irked by the collapse of the team towards the tail of the encounter that nearly saw the opponents equalize.
Edith Agoye a former junior international was happy that the game ended in favour of the Nigerians but warned that another lackadaisical performance against Egypt could be dire.
“The first games are usually very difficult in every competition and I am relieved that Nigeria won. However, it is important that the team take subsequent matches more serious. The weaknesses displayed against the Malians must be corrected before the next game.”
The uncertainty over the whereabouts of Samson Siasia’s before the commencement of the competition meant the team would play with the handbrake on, but now that she has been rescued it is time for the players to show the stuff they are made of.
While the Malians were physical and robust in their approach the Egyptians will be fast and tactical. The U-23 barely survived the onslaught of the Malians and that has made Nigerians wary of their ability to top the sly Egyptians?
Germany based Taiwo Awoniyi is one of the players that failed to play to his levels against Mali but has promised that he and his teammate will step up the gear against the North Africans.
“We didn’t start the match on a bright note but we gradually grew into it. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the result we lost our way towards the end of the encounter. That will not be the case against the Egyptians. We are resolved to maintain our focus for the game and have a foot in the semifinals.”
Awoniyi is synonymous with goals and will strive harder in today’s game to hit one or two for the team and make Nigerians happy and the team closer to their destination.
Siasia pointed accusing fingers at his defenders for the near mishap that the game with the Malians represented and if Nigeria’s quest is to be kept afloat, they alongside other sectors of the team must exhibit better verve than what was on display in the opening game today