The Olympic Eagles were champions in 2015 and have never missed an edition of the continental championship
Nigeria’s national U23 team will, today, Wednesday, trade tackles with their counterparts from Guinea at the Moshood Abiola International Stadium in Abuja for a place at the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
The Olympic Eagles will be favourites to claim victory on home soil in the first leg of this two-legged play-offs considering their pedigree.
One of the most successful teams on the continent, the Dream Team VII won Africa’s first Olympic football gold in 1996, claimed silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and secured bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
But the team’s preparation for this crucial clash against the Guineans has been far from ideal.
The former Enugu Rangers tactician was forced to decamp them and invite fresh, foreign-based players to beef up the squad only a few days ago. Still, several players coach Yusuf called up are from lower, unfancied leagues abroad.
Sadly, the coaching crew will not be able to count on the talent of KAA Gent prodigy Gift Orban after his club refused to allow him to leave.
However, coach Yusuf and his assistants will draw confidence from their tactical prowess that inspired the Olympic Eagles to dispatch Tanzania 3-1 on aggregate in the previous round.
Wednesday’s clash is the first meeting between Nigeria and Guinea at the CAF U23 AFCON, as the Baby Elephants have never qualified for the tournament.
The Olympic Eagles were champions in 2015, though, as five goals from Etebo Oghenekaro and a magnificent display by the tournament’s best player, Azubuike Okechukwu, powered Nigeria past their rivals in Senegal.
Nigeria did not make it out of the group stage at the inaugural edition in 2011 and in 2019 when they boasted the talents of Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Nwakali.
Competition: AFCON U23 qualifying playoff, first leg
Match: Nigeria U23 vs. Guinea U23
Venue: Moshood Abiola Stadium
Time: 4:00 pm (Nigerian time)