Nigeria’s U-23 football squad begins their journey to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this Wednesday afternoon as they face Libya in Tunisia. The match is the first leg of a double encounter that will lead to the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in which Nigeria are the cup holders.
African qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics will emerge at the tournament. No fewer than five former FIFA Under-17 World Cup winners are in the provisional squad.
Coach Imama Amapakabo, an assistant to Super Eagles Franco-German trainer, Gernot Rohr who is currently saddled with the responsibility of managing the Olympic Eagles, has called up defender Chigozie Obazi who was among the goals when Nigeria won her fourth FIFA U-17 World Cup title in 2013 in the UAE.
Also on the 33-man provisional list are four players from the Golden Eaglets that won the country’s fifth record FIFA U-17 World Cup title in Chile in 2015. The quartet drawn from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) include goalkeeper Amos Benjamin who is attached to Bayelsa United; Lobi Stars defending duo of John Lazarus and Anumudu Udochukwu as well as enterprising midfielder Chukwudi Agor who had the singular honour of scoring Nigeria’s first goal at Chile 2015 with blistering shot in the 2-1 defeat of USA.
Other youth internationals include defender Mohammed Annas of Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan who played four years ago with the Golden Eaglets at the U-17 African Cup of Nations in Niger as well as free-scoring striker Wasiu Alalade who impressed with Enyimba FC during last year’s Total CAF Confederation Cup.
Nigeria won the last edition of the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations held only for the second time in Senegal four years ago following a 2-1 win over Algeria at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar.
Meanwhile, the Amapakabo-led side would begin their campaign for the third edition of the quadrennial championship to be held in Egypt between November 8th and 22nd with an away tie in Tunisia which is the adopted home of Libya on the week of 20th -22nd March while the second leg would be held a week later.
Amapakabo, a former Nigeria international goalkeeper, would be assisted by the duo of Kennedy Boboye and Fidelis Ilechukwu as well as Etta Egbe as the goalkeepers’ trainer.