Coach Imama Amakapabo is confident that the Olympic Eagles will snatch the three points on offer when they confront the Elephants of Ivory Coast in tomorrow’s Group B opening match at the third U23 African Cup of Nations holding in Egypt.
The Nigerian team may be without substantive captain, Azubuike Okechukwu and forward Taiwo Awoniyi, but Amakapabo remains bullish that his charges will come to the party in the West African derby billed for the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo – the same venue where the Super Eagles picked up the bronze medals of the 32nd AFCON after pipping Tunisia 1-0 in July – as from 3pm Egypt time (2pm in Nigeria).
The Olympic Eagles’ coach has been able to welcome the majority of his listed overseas-based professionals, and with the complement of glory–hungry home-based professionals, expects to brush aside the challenge of the Ivorians, Zambia and South Africa in the group phase.
“We have players in camp here who are ready to give their all and do Nigeria proud any day, any time. We are quietly confident and will take it one match at a time.
“We are quite aware that as defending champions, so much is expected of us. This team will throw everything into the battle and ensure it does not disappoint Nigerians,” Amakapabo said.
Yesterday, the Nigeria camp received a morale boost when top officials of the Nigeria embassy in Cairo, led by Abubakar Sadiq Muhammad, visited the team to deliver the message of the ambassador, Professor Dandatti Abdulkadir (OFR).
“On behalf of the Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt, Prof. Dandatti Abdulkadir (OFR) and the Nigerian government, I welcome you to Egypt and wish you a successful outing in the forthcoming U23 AFCON tournament. Football is a major unifying factor in our country, and I believe you will all make us proud starting with the game against Cote d’Ivoire.
“Our presence here is to make sure you are comfortable. We will be at the stadium on Saturday in order to give you our maximum support,” said Muhammad, accompanied by head of chancery, Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Ghazali and Muhammad Tukur Garba, administrative officer.
The Nigeria U23 contingent spent six days in Ismailia fine-tuning preparations for the finals before arriving in Cairo on Wednesday, where they are staying at the Novotel Hotel and Resorts.