After a seemingly stuttering start to their campaign at the 2015 CAF U-23 Championship in Senegal, Nigeria are on the verge of emerging champions if they beat Algeria in today’s final match at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar.
But preceding the finale, South Africa and Senegal will fight for the third and final qualifying ticket to the Rio Games, at the same stadium where Nigeria and Algeria will battle for the bragging right as the continent’s U-23 champions.
Today’s final and third-place matches will be ‘repeats’ as Algeria and Nigeria drew 0-0 in Group B and Senegal beat South Africa 3-1 in Group A.
To reach the final, Nigeria defeated Senegal 1-0 in a keenly contested semifinal match. Oghenekaro Etebo calmly slotted in a second-half penalty kick to give the 1996 gold medalists and 2008 silver medalists a surprise win over the hosts, who they had wanted to avoid in the run-up to the semifinal.
On their part, Algeria reached the final of the eight-nation tournament on the back of an opportunist early Oussama Darfalou goal and Benkhemassa strike to roll to a convincing 2-0 victory over South Africa and a first appearance at the Games since the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
With the ticket to Rio Olympics secured, Nigeria now turn their attention to lifting the title, which will be a befitting end for Siasia, who has charged his boys to seize the opportunities that come their way against the Algerians.
“Our mission when we were coming here was to first qualify for he Rio Olympics, which we have achieved and now have the opportunity to win the title, which is an extra motivation for us to play the game of our life in this tournament. “Algeria are a strong team. We played them in the group stage and it was a balanced match. This final game is going to be tougher for both teams and I pray that the gods of football will be on our side like they did when we played Senegal”, added Siasia.
On his part, Algerian coach Pierre Andre Schurman said the objective at the tournament was to qualify for the Olympics, which they have achieved after beating South Africa 2-0.
He added that emerging top ahead of Nigeria in group B does not give them the advantage but boosts their confidence in their bid for the title.
“The objective was to qualify for Rio and we achieved that. We’re confident going into the final. Group B was the toughest in the tournament but it doesn’t mean that we’re the best teams in the tournament”.
It will be the third meeting between both teams in this tournament since the maiden edition in Morocco in 2011, which was won by Gabon. Nigeria whipped Algeria 4-1 four years ago, before they drew 0-0 in a group game in Senegal.
CREDITS: This article is written by John Egbokhan and published on vanguardngr.com