Wednesday, December 9, 2015 6:01 pm
Nigeria’s U-23 team, the Dream Team VI, will be going to Rio Olympics next year, to represent the country.
The team bagged the ticket in Dakar Senegal today after shocking the home team, by winning 1-0 in the first semi-final of the day.
South Africa and Algeria will meet later to battle for the second ticket, while the loser in this game and Senegal, will battle for the third ticket.
Ogenekaro Etebo broke the deadlock in the 76th minute when he converted a penalty after a Senegalese defender handled the ball in the 18 yard box. The Nigerians, pressing for the opener forced a blunder from the Senegalese backline on 71st minute as hard-pressed defender Ousseynou Thioune deliberately tried to stop the ball from entering the post. Thioune had first collided with the Senegalese keeper, who fell down, but the ball slipped away in between them. Trying to stop Victor Osimhen from reaching the ball, Thioune desperately held it. He was sent off by the Morrocan referee, and Oghenekaro converted the penalty for the opener to silence the home crowd.
The win automatically qualified the country for the 2016 Olympics, irrespective of the outcome of the final match at the ongoing Africa Under-23 Championship in Senegal.
Nigeria had defeated Mali 3-2 in the group’s first match; played a 2-2 draw with Egypt in the second match and 0-0 against Algeria in the third encounter before the semi-final tie with host Senegal.
It was a big reprieve for the National Sports Commission (NSC) and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which are yet to pay the players and coaches their match allowances and bonuses since the tournament commenced.
Goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel was the hero of the semi-final encounter as he made about four crucial saves, including a penalty in the 45th minute to keep the Dream Team’s hope of qualification alive.
Nigeria will now trade tackles with the winner of the match between South Africa and Algeria in the final on Saturday.
Only three top teams from this championship will qualify to represent Africa in the football event of the 2016 Olympics.
The fourth place finisher at the tournament will have to play and win another team from Oceania, in a play-off to be guaranteed a ticket for the Olympics.