Nigeria’s U23 national team, also known as the Olympic Eagles, are poised to fly past the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire later today hone both sides clash in the opening game of Group B at the U23 Africa Nations Cup, holding in Egypt.
The encounter billed for the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo will kick off as from 2pm Nigerian time.
Ahead of today’s match, the Olympic Eagles received a major morale boost on Thursday, when top officials of the Nigeria embassy in Cairo, led by Abubakar Sadiq Muhammad, visited the team’s camp to deliver the goodwill message of the ambassador, Professor Dandatti Abdulkadir, who assured the team of comfort and massive support throughout their campaign in the tournament.
The Imama Amakapabo-tutored Nigerian team had spent six days in Ismailia fine-tuning their strategies for the competition before arriving in Cairo on Wednesday, where they are staying at the Novotel Hotel and Resorts.
Coach Amakapabo is confident that his team will brush aside the Ivorian Elephants in today’s West African derby and go ahead to overcome to overcome Zambia and South Africa in their other group matches to brighten their chance of claiming a ticket to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, team captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, has charged his teammates to beat Cote d’Ivoire in today’s group opening game.
Okechukwu, who will not play a part in the tournament after his Turkish club, Istanbul Basaksehir, failed to release him, is confident Nigeria can claim victory in the encounter.
“I’m going to be praying for the lads and then support them in their first game, and I know the boys can get a win from the game,” he told AOI.
“We just have to want it more than the other teams and we will qualify for the Olympics.”
Notable players expected to ensure victory for Nigeria today are defenders Valentine Ozornwafor, Olisah Ndah, Sincere Seth and Anthony Izuchukwu, and midfielders Sunusi Ibrahim, Muyiwa Olabiran, Ndifreke Effiong.
England–based Tom Dele-Bashiru will bring his experience and steel to bear in the middle, while Huesca midfielder, Kelechi Nwakali, will captain Nigeria in the absence of Okechukwu.