The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has expressed disappointment over the the exit of the Under23 national team from the ongoing U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
The Olympic Eagles crashed out of the tournament on Friday after playing out a goalless draw with the Amaglug-glug of South Africa in the their last group match, to finish in the third position in Group B with four points behind Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa who finished first and second with six and five points, respectively, to book their slots in the semi-finals.
The team’s exit from the tournament means that Nigeria will not participate in the men’s football event at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, in a statement signed by the Media Director of the football governing body, Ademola Olajire, yesterday, slammed the Imama Amapakabo-tutored squad whose performance, he said, failed short of the board’s expectations, considering the massive support and encouragement given to the team.
“Working together with the Ministry of Sports, we have been able to provide the team with what is required for them to excel. The team’s failure to reach the semi finals and ultimately qualify for the Olympics is a big shock.
“Three years ago, football won the only medal that Nigeria took from the Olympics in Brazil. Our expectation was that this team would qualify for Tokyo and go there to do the country proud,” the NFF boss said.
After winning gold in the football event in Atlanta, USA, in 1996, the Nigeria U23 had participated in the Olympics in Australia in 2000; missed the event in Greece in 2004; took part at the event in China in 2008, and won the silver medal; missed the tournament in the United Kingdom in 2012 and won the bronze in the event in Brazil in 2016.
The Nigerian team need just a lone goal victory to topple the South Africans and assure of a place in the last four – irrespective of the result in the other match between Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia, but the Amapakabo charges failed to find their sting in the crucial last group fixture against a more glory hungry South African side.
The winners, runners-up and third place team at the tournament will represent Africa in the football event at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Meanwhile, Coach Amapakabo has come under severe criticism from football fans for allegedly setting the worst record as a national team coach.
Expressing their disappointment in the social media, the fans noted that Amapakabo failed with at three tournaments within a space of four weeks, namely, WAFU, CHAN and U23 AFCON.