Nigeria’s U-23 national team will begin their quest to feature at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when they meet Libya in the first leg of the African U-23 Nations Cup qualifiers in Tunisia today. Today’s match is the first leg of the qualifying tie for the African U-23 championship, which gives the semi-finalists direct ticket to Tokyo 2020.
Nigeria is the U-23 Nations Cup defending champions having won the last edition in Senegal in 2015. They are playing in Tunisia because Libya play all their matches in the North African nation due to the political crisis in their country.
Today’s match will kick off by 3.00 p.m. Nigerian time on the artificial turf of the Ben Guerdane Stadium in the city of Ben Guerdane. On call for the Nigerian team, led by former Enugu Rangers Coach, Imama Amapakabo are some of the best legs in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), including Lobi Stars’ trio of John Lazarus, Ugochukwu Anumudu and Ebube Duru, Enyimba’s Dare Olatunji and Stephen Egbe, and Wikki Tourists’ goalie Adamu Abubakar, among others.
There are also former world U-17 champions, Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Nwakali, Kingsley Michael, Orji Okonkwo, Chidera Ezeh and Samuel Chukwueze. They are among the Europe-based stars Amapakabo chose to fortify his side. The game would be overseen by CAF Ghanaian officials led Daniel Laryea as referee. Acheampong Brobbey is the assistant referee 1, while Emmanuel Allou is assistant referee 2 and Adaar Abdul Latif is the fourth official. Amir Osman Mohamed Amid from Sudan is the match commissioner.
The winner of the tie over two legs will move to the final round of qualifiers billed to hold in June. From that round in June, the winner will join other teams for the third Africa U-23 Cup of Nations scheduled for Egypt from November 8 to 22.Nigeria is the only African country to have won gold, silver and bronze medals of the Men’s Olympic football tournament.
The U-23 Eagles won gold at the Centennial Games in Atlanta, U.S in 1996 and took silver came in Beijing, China in 2008. At the last Olympics in Brazil, the team’s bronze medal was Nigeria’s only laurel at the 2016 fiesta.